Archive for June, 2009

The Hangover PosterI don’t go to see a huge number of outright comedies.  Take some of the biggest comedy films of recent years such as the American Pie or Austin Powers films I just didn’t find funny.  Therefore it comes as no surprise that I was in no rush to see The Hangover.  A solid four stars and a great review from Empire and good word of mouth got the better of me and I went to see it at the weekend.  Amazingly I actually loved the film.  From all the advertising I am sure everyone knows the plot by now.  Four friends go to Vegas on a stag night.  The next day they wake up to find they have lost the groom, but gained a baby, one of them has lost a tooth, they have stolen a police car, there is a small matter of a tiger in the bathroomand worst of all no memory of how they got to this point.

The HangoverThe Hangover heather grahamWhat sets this apart is the charisma and chemistry of the leading men despite the fact there isn’t an A lister amongst them.  This leads to the question when did Bradley Cooper become a leading man?  He is best known to me as the geeky friend in Alias, the only film I have seen him in is the direct to DVD The Midnight Meat Train that I reviewed earlier in the month.  But now he the main man in this film walking the fine line between self serving and charismatic, a part he plays perfectly.  His character is reminiscent of Kevin Costner’s Gardner in Fandango.  Cooper has many future projects lined up including Faceman in the A-Team movie it will be interesting to see how his career shapes up from here.  The other reason the film works is that it treads a different path to similar films.  Whilst most films cover the hilarious (or so the director thinks) antics of the stag night this film skips over that period and sets its action the following day as the group try to piece together what happened and where the groom has gone.  This also allows for a great ending to be played out over the closing credits.  Obviously this is a film about men so the female characters are given less screen time but they all perform well.  Heather Graham’s stripper Jade actually turns out to be a sweet and innocent character.  Sassha Barresse is good as the bride to be.  But the best character of all is Melissa the controlling girlfriend of Stu (Ed Helms) played with relish by Rachael Harris.  

HangoverWhilst the film triumphs on the merits of its cast some credit has to be given to the director Todd Phillips whose previous work includes a handful of films I haven’t seen and the overrated Starsky & Hutch.   The reason I point out his importance in the process is that the film is walking a knife-edge where it could descend into gross-out comedy or go the other way and just not be funny.  Phillips keeps the action moving and the gags coming playing to the stereotypes of the characters without being too clichéd.  In short it is a film that is far better than I expected and I liked far more than expected I would.  I haven’t been so presently surprised by a film since In Bruges. 


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blood the last vampireOnigenAnyone who has read my earlier posts will know I love vampire movies. One of the things I love about the genre is that even within the confine set out by the mythology a vampire film can be: Horror (Near Dark), Action (Blade), Romance (The Hunger), Teen comedy/drama (The Lost Boys), Comedy (Innocent Blood), Sci-Fi (Lifeforce), Arty (Nadja), Sex (Vampiros Lesbos). So with this in mind I have obviously been to see the latest vampire film, Blood: The last vampire. I was a little concerned that I couldn’t find any reviews of the film even two days after it came out. Added to this it is the third film from music video director Chris Nahon whose first film Kiss of the Dragon was frankly rubbish. I decided to take my chances and see it anyway.

sayaAllison MillerBased on a 2000 Japanese animation it is the story of Saya a vampire with a sole (sound familiar?) who hunts down and kills demons with the help of a shady agency. Even with my lowered expectations I was disappointed. There are many problems with the film including: Saya suffers from the same problem as Wolverine, she appears virtually impossible to hurt and cuts through her foe (literally) with too much ease without ever appearing to be in danger. This prevents the viewer from connecting with the character. The CGI is poor at best, not a big problem other than the fact it is over used. There is also a real lack of a decent villain. The “bottom feeders” as Saya refers to them offer no real test so we are left to wait for the oldest and most evil demon who Saya has been waiting centuries to kill. When she arrives she is hardly the supreme evil we have been waiting for. It is not helped by the dream like other world type setting of the showdown that offers nothing new to the genre and dulls the action. All these problems are minor in comparison to the biggest problem of the film the acting is really really poor . Gianna Jun is okay as Saya, Allison Miller isn’t too bad as Alice but she is a bit annoying at times and is clearly in her mid blood the last vampire fight in schoollarry lambtwenties and not of school age as is suggested. The rest of the cast includes English TV stalwarts Larry Lamb and Colin Salmon who really ham it up as does Lian Cunningham.

Fortunately the film is relatively short so does not drag out the disappointment for too long. Lets hope the next big vampire film Daybreakers is better!

Now that looks more like it!

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midnight meat trainThe Midnight Meet TrainBased on a short story by Clive Barker The Midnight Meat Train is Ryuhei Kitamura’s first English language film.Looking for inspiration for his art photographer Leon (Bradley Cooper) decends into the subway at night. He saves a young girl from a group of attackers only to find out the next day that she has disappeared. With the police unwilling to help he starts to investigage himself. In a Blow Up style sceen he studies his photogrphs and discovers a mysterious man, Mahogany (Vinnie Jones) Mahogany a butcher by trade is killing people on the late night train, but how long has he been doing it for and why? In an interesting plot device we get to see a litle more of what Mahogany is doing after each killing until finally through Leon we get to see his clinical process. The visual style is great with use of slow motion and time lapse as well as excellent use of light. Although bloody, gory and violent it is actually quite tame in comparison to the directors Japanese films. In the final half hour the film begins to play with the audiences perception of what is going on before the final reveal. Someone had clearly seen Vinnie Jones in Gone In Sixtiy Seconds and realised it would be best to keep his lines to an absolute minimum, I think they succeeded!

Other films by the same director that are worth watching are:

versusVersus (2000):A quite bizarre film that combines the Zombie and Gangster genres with a few sword fights thrown in for good measure. The Forest of Resurrection is the “444th portal to the other side” one of 666! An escaped convict, a woman and a group of gangsters all find their way there. As people are killed and buried they come back to life as zombie type creatures accompanied by the evil spirit that resurrected them. Although clearly low budget the film is full of imaginarily executed action sequences and some fantastic fight scenes. A sequel has long been rumoured as the film has little narrative closure. There has been no sequel yet but in 2004 The Ultimate Versus was a 3 disc DVD that can be described as the ultimate directors cut. The film features completely new footage shot with the original cast and crew. There has also been talk of an American based sequel/remake that would be set at the same time as the original film but using one of the other portals.

AragamiHaving finished his work early as one of nine directors on a short film Project called Jam Films Ryûhei Kitamura and another director Yukihiko Tsutsumi were given the opportunity by produced Shinya Kawai. The two directors proposed to make a film in one week featuring two actors battling in one setting. The two films had the collective name of Duel Project; Ryûhei Kitamura’s film was called Aragami (2003). A simple story of a god and a samurai fighting in series of battles in an isolated temple. He did break the rules a little bringing in a few other actors to play smaller parts to help the narrative. An interesting film project that is well worth a look.

azumiazumi Ryuhei KitamuraHis next film was possibly his best Azumi (2003)is the story of an orphaned girl who is raised along with nine other children by a master Samurai. After years of training they have to face one final test before going on their first mission. The test is nothing short of brutal. Their mission is to kill three warlords preventing a civil war that will be devastating for the country. The main reason the film works is the lead character Azumi (played by the impossibly cute Aya Ueto) as proved by Quentin Tarantino in Kill Bill and Ang Lee in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, you can’t go far wrong when you give a beautiful woman a sword and drop her into the middle of the male dominated action genre.

sky highSky High (2003)returns the director to a more supernatural setting after the almost real world of Azumi. It is based on a Manga comic of the same name and ties in to a TV series of the same name. A serial killer is killing people and taking their hearts. Detective Kanzaki who is on the case believes along with the rest of the police that the killings are random. However it is revealed that the victims are guardians of the gateway to the afterlife. The next victim is Mina, Kanzaki’s fiancée on the day they are due to be married. The killers Kudo and Rei are actual after six hearts they need to summon demons from the Gate of Rage who will grant their every desire. The unfortunate side effect is that doing this will open the gate of rage sending the world into darkness. In the afterlife Mina meats the guardian of the gate and is presented with three options and twelve days to make an impossible decision.

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New Appearance!

Don’t worry you haven’t come to the wrong place.  This is still Fandango Groovers Movie Blog, I am just doing a bit of site maintenance. To celebrate my 10,000 hit (that I will hopefully get in the next few weeks) I have changed the appearance of my page to one with widgets (whatever that means). This allows me to put a hit counter on my page (thanks for the advice Caz). 

The downside is that I have lost my custom header.  But don’t worry normal service will resume.  My custom header will return over the weekend.  Until then take a look at this:

Chata Ortega's Bar & Grill

For those who don’t already know the photograph saying Groovers 71 that I use for my header is graffiti inside Chata Ortega’s Bar & Grill a filming location from the movie Fandango. It is located just of I20 in West Texas.  For more information click Ultimate Fandango on my blogroll and select locations from the menu at the top. 

And if you click on my about at the top of this page you will see a photograph of me (Stetson in hand) inside Chata Ortega’s.

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Farrah Fawcett I didn’t intend to blog today but Just have time for a quick note on the death of an icon. With all the publicity over the death of Michael Jackson yesterday it would be easy to miss the sad news that Farrah Fawcett also passed away. She was 62 and had been battling cancer for three years. More a TV star than a film star she will be best remembered as one of the stars of the original Charlie’s Angels. For a full obituary take a look at this:


For me her most memorable role was not Charlie’s Angels or any of her other TV work but staring with Burt Reynolds, Dom Deluise, Jack Elam and a Dodge Ambulance in The Cannonball Run. Not a fantastic film but enormous fun.

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The idea of a trailer is to get people to see the movie.  Nothing more nothing less.  After all a films success can live or die by its marketing.  However in recent years trailers have become an art form in themselves.  They have to give away enough of the film to make it compelling without ruining the plot.  Music can be essential in creating the mood and the feeling of a movie.  A great example of that is the recent (excellent) trailer for Watchmen that utilised the Smashing Pumpkins song “The Beginning is the End is the Beginning” from the Batman & Robin soundtrack.  It fits this film so much better than it did its original film.  The other great trailer at the moment is Public Enemies that uses Ten Million Slaves by Otis Taylor but also contains a lot of film dialogue. 

The best trailer I can remember seeing is the Kill Bill trailer below. There are lots of variations but this one for Vol. 1 was perfect.  The action mainly centres on the House of Blue Leaves scenes, possibly the best section of the film featuring Uma Thurman in her iconic Bruce Lee inspired yellow tracksuit.  The dialogue is kept to a minimum and only used at the end.  The music is cranked up and fits perfectly with the editing.  Take a look: 

Is that the best film trailer ever?  I think so!

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franklyn posterSet in two universes; four lost souls are all looking for something, meaning in their life? Jonathan Preest (Ryan Phillippe) is a masked vigilante living in Meanwhile city a strange gothic fairytale looking city in seemingly perpetual night. Meanwhile City is run by “The ministry” using Religious dogma to control people. As the only atheist in the city Preest is a wanted man. After failing in his mission to kill a man and save a young girl he is arrested and incarcerated for four years. Then suddenly he is released and sent to kill his original target “The Individual”. A man we are told is responsible for the death of the young girl.

emiliamiloMeanwhile in London, Milo (Sam Riley) is coming to terms with his fiancé jilting him shortly before their wedding, until he meats up with his childhood sweetheart who is not all she seems. Peter Esser (Bernard Hill) is looking for his son. A young man who we discover is traumatised by his time in Iraq and the death of his sister. Emilia (Eva Green, in another great role, why doesn’t she make more films?) is a young art student with serious emotional problems and penchant for theatrically staged, cry for help suicide attempts.  As the film develops we start to see parallels between London and Meanwhile City as locations have equivalent places in each city. We see the same characters appearing in the both realities. This is integral to the plot but also a nice touch by the filmmakers. There is a fantastic reveal as the camera moves through the wall of Emila’s apartment between the two worlds.

eva greenfranklynThe film has a slow pace that may annoy some viewers but there is enough to hold the interest. It is more than half way through the film before it gives much away and starts bringing the characters together. The production design is excellent particularly the look of Meanwhile City. This is contrasted with the brighter more ordinary London setting. The two looks are bridged by Emilia’s apartment and costumes that could fit in either world. Although not spectacular the photography is good giving each character their own lighting and filming style. It is difficult to say more about the film without giving away key plot elements other than to say that although comparisons with Pan’s Labyrinth are valid this film falls a long way short of Guillermo del Toro’s masterpiece. Although less successful there are still pleasing aspects such as clues within the story that make perfect sense with hindsight.

Considering it is director Gerald McMorrow’s fist feature film it is a very accomplished work that often looks more expensive than its approximately $12million budget. Although I enjoyed the film I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone it isn’t a film with universal appeal. You will notice the film is filed under DVD Gems, although it got a theatrical release it was in limited screens and none near me. It is yet to be released in the USA.

A note of trivia to finish on. Ewan McGregor, Paul Bettany and John Hurt were all originally cast. McGregor broke his leg in a Motorbike accident. Viewers of Long Way Down will remember this happening. The delay and the subsequent Long Way Down trip caused a delay making the other two drop out as well. Eva Green was the original choice to play Emilia.

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Mr DresdonEmilio EstevezAny regular cinema goer (in the UK)  will be familiar with the Orange adds that come between the trailers and the film.  The better ones are very funny the first time you see them but get annoying very quickly.  You can always spot people who don’t go very often when they laugh at them.  For anyone from other countries (or who don’t go to the cinema) the adverts are based around The Orange Film Board a fiction company funded by the orange mobile phone network.  Each advert consists of a celebrity usually an actor pitching a film idea to the board lead my Mr Dresden (Brennan Brown) who then proceed to ruin the idea by thinking up ways of turning the film into giant mobile phone commercial.  Over time the adverts have evolved and they include on location settings while a film is in production.  Or the latest featuring Emilio Estevez  “Saving Private Ryan’s Number”:


At the end of the advert when asked about the historical accuracy of the film Mr Dresden explains that they just want to “Blow stuff up and sell some phones” this got me thinking is it any different to any summer blockbuster that is filled with product placements and has to have bigger and louder explosions than the last years blockbusters.

Take the big films from the summer so far:

  • Transformers looks like a giant General Motors Advert
  • Budweiser is just about the only beer drunk in films as proved by Star Trek and Wolverine.
  • Apple and Dell are the only computers in the world: Night at the Museum (plus nine other films) Fast & Furious (plus five others) respectively.


repo man

Bigger and supposedly better explosions and product placements aplenty.  If you are getting a bit jaded by all this take a look at Alex Cox’s 1984 classic Repo Man (also staring Emilio Estevez ) for a great parody of product placement in films. 


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Avengers Assemble

Most Marvel Comics take place in what has become known as the Marvel Universe.  It is basically like the world as we know it with the addition of these unusual characters.  The Marvel based films seem to be in a slightly different world with no crossover between films, for example the X-Men, Fantastic Four and Spider-Man have not appeared together in the recent films .  However recently things have changed.  Iron Man introduced S.H.I.E.L.D. to the Marvel film universe.  Then after the credits of the film we had a cameo by by Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury who tells Stark (AKA Iron Man) that he is not “the only superhero in the world” and tells him he wants to discuss the “Avenger Initiative”.  Stark makes a similar appearance in The Incredible Hulk when he visits Thunderbolt Ross.  This is all leading up to an avengers Movie, possibly in 2012.

captain americaThe incredible HulkSpeculating on a future film three years before it comes out isn’t my normal thing but this one looks interesting to me as they are doing it the opposite way around.  X-Men had three films before splintering off to make Origins: Wolverine and the announced Deadpool (a spin-off from a spin-off, very comic book!) and the suggested Magneto origins film.  Members of the Avengers appear to be making solo appearances first before joining up.  We have already had Iron Man and there is a sequel on the way next year followed by The First Avenger: Captain America and Thor, both in 2011.  These are all possible members along with the Hulk who has made two film appearances to date.

The original members of The Avengers were:

  • Ant-Man
  • Wasp
  • Thor
  • Iron Man
  • The Hulk
  • Captain America joined in issue #4
(I have never read any Avengers so have little knowledge of them.  This list is from Wikipedia blame them if it is wrong!)

thoriron manMy research also told me that the underlying theme of the Avengers is that the characters unite to fight super-villains that they would not be able to defeat on their own.  This suggests a possibility of a large scale enemy of even multiple enemies.  The group also has a constantly changing line-up.  This could work well for follow-up films replacing less popular characters when needed.  Members of the Avengers in comic books who have already appeared in a Marvel Studios film are:

  • Iron Man (Irion Man and Iron Man 2 is on its way)
  • The Hulk (The Hulk and The Incredible Hulk)
  • Beast. (X-Men The last stand and briefly in X2)
  • The Fantastic Four (Fantastic 4 and its sequel)
  • Spider-Man (Three movies and a fourth on the way)
  • Sandman (Spiderman 3)
  • Wolverine (three X-Men Movies and his own origins film.

By the time the film comes out we will have also had movies about:

  • Thor
  • Captain America

Black Widowthe scarlet witchThe list so far has a very male slant to it (only Wasp of the original members is a woman).  A quick look on the internet give numerous suggestions for possible female Avengers. The favourites are Scarlet Witch (mentioned a few times she also has X-Men crossover potential), Black Widow and Tigra.


There is no sign of a director as yet but IMDB has Zak Penn listed to provide the screenplay.  His previous writing credits are a mixed bag but with plenty of Marvel adaptations including:

  • The Incredible Hulk (not bad)
  • X-Men The Last Stand (not good)
  • Fantastic Four (oh!)
  • Electra (Shall we give up now?)
  • X-Men 2 (Better) 

Thunderbolt Rossnick furyCasting at the moment is little more than rumours  but IMDB does have Robert Downey Jr. reprising his role as Tony Stark/Iron Man and Don Cheadle who is taking over from Terrence Howard as Col. James ‘Rhodey’ Rhodes AKA War Machine in the next Iron Man film.  It makes sense that they will use the same cast as in other films so: Chris Hemsworth who is due to play Thor.  Samuel L. Jackson who we have already seen (briefly) as Nick Fury and William Hurt as Thunderbolt Ross.  Edward Norton could return as Bruce Banner/The Hulk but his current storyline possibly doesn’t work as a member of a team.  The Hulk has been a sympathetic character in the first two films; A story where he loses control and becomes a villain that the Avengers have to bring down could be interesting? This could thenleave an opening for him to be a member in a following film.  This would also pave the way for Tim Blake Nelson to return as Samuel Sterns AKA the Leader as a second villain. 

This is all academic as if the films that go before it fail to make money this film will never see the light of day. But lets be honest with the first three Spider-Man movies grossing around $2.5billion Marvel know how to make money out of their films.  The Avengers (whoever they may be) will be assembling in about three years time.


It has just come to my attention (although common knowledge to others for months) that Scarlett Johansson is to play Black Widow in Iron Man 2 due out next year.  This looks like another possible future Avenger.

Scarlett Johansson Black Widow

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This article started of as being about the future of Marvel based films but I ended up writing half of it about the latest film X-Men Origins: Wolverine.  So I have saved what I had written on the future for a different article and completed this one about Wolverine.  A film a I really wanted to like more than I actually did!

wolverineThe best thing about the film is the character and the casting of the leading role. Wolverine has always been a fans favourite and right from the start of the original X-Men movie he has been the star getting good screen time and all the best lines. Hugh Jackman has really made the character his own to such an extent that it is difficult imagining anyone else playing the part. In this film he has a harder job having to carry the whole film himself, something I think he struggles with at times. I put this down to weaknesses in the script rather than any fault of Jackman.

victor creedThe big problem with the film is the limitations placed upon it by the fact it is a prequel. Anyone who has seen the first three films will know that Wolverine, Sabretooth and William Stryker all appear and therefore must survive this film. We know that Wolverine loses his memory some time before the start of the first X-Men movie. All this makes what happens to them somewhat superficial. A build up to wolverines memory loss would make a somewhat disappointing film. Fortunately it does offer more than that. At 107 minutes the film is relatively short and doesn’t keep the viewer waiting before jumping into the action. The action however is unfortunately a little let down by Wolverine’s inability to get hurt. Yes we all know about his healing factor but its seems more effective than ever making him virtually indestructible. If he is never in danger the audience struggles to emphasise with him.  

In the other X-Men films he is surrounded by people who are either more powerful than him or are able to do him harm.  Professor X, Magneto, Jean Grey even Rogue. 

gambitThe film starts in the 1840’s and is followed by the opening credit scene that I have conflicting opinions of. It covers around 100 years worth of wars that Wolverine fought in alongside his half brother Victor Creed (aka Sabretooth although he is never called that in this film). The reason I say I am conflicted about it is that it is a great scene (not as good as the opening to Watchmen) but it also skips over a huge amount of history that could have lent it self to some great scenes: for example Wolverine killing Nazi’s in WWII “Inglourious (Mutant) Basterds” anyone? This is followed by Wolverine’s time with Team X, this is a really week part of the film. Wolverine doesn’t seem to do much within the team and is overshadowed by Ryan Reynolds’ Wade Wilson (aka Deadpool but again like with Sabretooth the Deadpool name is not used). Reynolds is charismatic and wisecracking, in fact everything we expect from Wolverine. It is no surprise that it looks like he is now going to get his own film. Partly due to time constraints of other films Reynolds has a relatively small part as do all the other characters in the film. The only one who is given a role of substance is Live Schriber who replaces Tyler Mane as Creed/Sabretooth. He excels as the wonderfully unstable sibling and easily overcomes the fact he doesn’t have the same physical presence as the giant Mane, he also gained 35lbs to help look the part, it helps. Remy wade wilsonLeBeau/Gambit makes his movie debut portrayed by Taylor Kitsch. This is a big moment for a lot of fans of the comic books but he really doesn’t work for me. He doesn’t do anything particularly wrong but I just don’t see him as Gambit. A future film set in the present day will require an older actor, I suggest they make the film pretty soon with Josh Holloway (Sawyer form Lost) before he gets too old.

silverfoxSo after his time with Team X Logan is next seen back home in Canada at one with nature and in love with Kayla Silverfox (Lynn Collins). This is all to brief and ill thought out. It would have made a good starting point for the film with the past events shown in flashback. That way the earlier scenes would not feel as rushed. It would also give an opportunity for the audience to build a more empathy with Silverfox as we see her relationship develop with Logan, this would help in the later scenes of the film. But this sums up another problem, the film is so episodic that Wolverine and Creed are the only characters who develop a relationship of any emma frostdepth. Incidentally another interesting character introduction is Emma Frost aka The White Queen (Tahyna Tozzi) in this case she is depicted as the sister of Kayla Silverfox. A fans favourite she is a character of huge potential that with the right actress playing her could command her own film, David O. Russell has already been linked with a possible film.

x men originsA film of this type will live or die on the merits of the action scenes and the special effects. On the whole they are quite good. The fighting scenes are particularly good but as mentioned before a little hollow with the knowledge that the main protagonists are in no danger. Some of the special effects are a little shaky considering the large budget ($150million), these include a younger Charles Xavier played by a (uncredited) de-aged Patrick Steward. The final battle is a mixed bag of good and bad but the setting at Three Mile Island is a clever move, not only does it link the film to the real world by offering a fictionalised account of a real historical event but it also dates the scene to 1979 when the accident happened. This tells us that Wolverine has approximately 21 years to kill in the inevitable sequel before his first encounter with the X-Men. The post credit sequence suggests that this will take place in Japan. Now all the origins are dealt with we can move on and have some fun as Wolverine develops into that character from the start of X-Men.

In short the film isn’t a disaster but does fail to live up to its potential but it is better than the dire The Last Stand. So where do they go from here? Marvel Studios has several films slated for production over the next few years. The ones that fall within the X universe are include a Magneto Origins film, the aforementioned Deadpool movie and X-Men: First Class. This film will potentially feature a younger cast taking on the key roles of the characters seen in the original X-Men movie. Rumours have suggested a return by director Bryan Singer. This would be most welcome and could put the franchise back on track.

Ultimately I think this film has been a stopgap to keep the money rolling in and the brand in the public eye before the next big project comes along.  I will be taking more about that in the next few weeks.

Additional paragraph for revised article: I was just responding to a comment on another article when it suddenly occurred to me what was missing from Wolverine.  Whilst watching the film I could see that it lacked a certain substance but I had never considered what it was.  The simple answer is that it lacks a subtext that gives the film a meaning and a grounding.  The X-Men films (even the rubbish third one) have strong themes of alienation and discrimination, themes that are timeless and universal.  A lot of these are expressed openly by the films patriarchs Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and particularly Magneto (Ian Mckellen) who we learn was a child during the Holocaust.  You also have characters like Senator Kelly (Bruce Davison) who practise what could be described as a form of Neo-McCarthyism.   Without this Wolverine was just like any other action film.

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