‘Wolverine’ lacks depth, but who cares?

Posted Sept. 11, 2009, at 5:20 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 11:57 a.m.

DVD Corner

“X-Men Origins: Wolverine” DVD, Blu-ray: Sure, it’s an origins movie, but given how it was sold to the masses — Wolverine as savior, Wolverine as hirsute sex symbol — nobody should come to the film expecting anything on par with what Christopher Nolan created in his deeper, more intriguing “Batman Begins,” which also is an origins movie. “Wolverine” has zip for depth, but since it never sold itself as such, who cares? This is the action movie the advertising campaign promised, and it comes through with plenty of scenes that satisfy on a visceral level. Since few will champion “Wolverine” as a cleanly told film, let’s just cut through the clutter. The movie’s core story is about Wolverine’s crumbling relationship with his older brother, Sabretooth (Liev Schreiber), a fellow mutant whose darker side doesn’t mesh with Wolverine’s more heroic tendencies. When Sabretooth goes too far in the bloodletting department (he’s a beast, killing for the sake of killing), the two become estranged. The ugliness that brews between them sets the movie up for its second half, in which Wolverine falls hard for Kayla Silverfox (Lynn Collins), a hippie mellowing out in the Canadian Rockies; when Wolverine joins Col. Stryker (Danny Huston) in becoming part of an experiment that turns his skeleton to adamantium. What ensues is reasonably fun even if it is overly familiar. What “Wolverine” ultimately achieves is what movies always have done better than any other medium — it takes one person, in this case Hugh Jackman, and turns him into something otherworldly. Like Grant, Brando, Monroe, Turner, Harlow and Hayworth before him, the sum of his parts makes for an unobtainable whole. The film elevates him into a fantasy figure, which, in case some have forgotten in this new era of movies, is what real movie stars are about. PG-13. Grade: B-

“Grey’s Anatomy: Complete Fifth Season” DVD, Blu-ray: After a good but abbreviated fourth season, this fifth season got its act together and returns in fine form. The focus presumably is on Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo), who is in an intense relationship with surgeon Derek Shepherd (Maine native Patrick Dempsey), and who, like him, must mine the personalities surrounding her, from Izzie (Katherine Heigl), Alex (Justin Chambers), Cristina (Sandra Oh) and George (T.R. Knight), to several newcomers such as Owen (Kevin McKidd), who develops a shaky relationship with Cristina. What becomes clear in this season is that more than ever, it’s less about Meredith than about the maelstrom of stories surrounding her, including a pivotal ending that puts George’s life (not to mention Izzie’s) literally on the line. It’s a moving ending, the series at its best, and that its focus isn’t specifically on Meredith suggests how crowded the corridors of Seattle’s Grace Hospital have become. And how rich. Grade: B

“High Crimes” Blu-ray: One of those glossy, well-acted potboilers that doesn’t aim high enough. Moments fly thanks to the talented cast, but since the film eventually steamrolls into courtroom cliches and dumb plot twists that no actor can surmount, the experience is ultimately weak. Ashley Judd and Morgan Freeman star in a movie that gets off to a promising start with Judd as Claire Kubik, a high-powered attorney who is about to be hit by a high-powered wrecking ball. During an innocent evening of holiday shopping in San Francisco, Claire and her sensitive, doe-eyed husband, Tom (Jim Caviezel), are ambushed by the FBI. Apparently, Tom’s real name is Ron Chapman, something Claire doesn’t know. Now she must deal with the knowledge that her husband allegedly went on a killing spree in a Salvadoran village in 1988, leaving nine women and children dead in his wake. Is he a murderer? Or could it be that the killing actually was committed by Maj. Hernandez (Juan Carlos Hernandez), a shifty little man with a droopy left eye who might be a decoy for the real person responsible here — Brig. Gen. William Marks (Bruce Davison)? With the help of Charles Grimes (Freeman), Claire fights the good fight in spite of being beaten up, harassed and threatened by an evil band of military personnel determined to bring her to silence. Without a genuine surprise or, worse, a moment that doesn’t feel as if it was distilled and then diluted for the approval of a test audience, “High Crimes” is actually rather low, a film whose cast proves the only heartbeat in a story that otherwise was dead on arrival. PG-13. Grade: C

“The Office: Season Five” DVD, Blu-ray: Examines what happens when your boss isn’t exactly the brightest bulb in the office. This fifth season of the show mocks and skewers authority with the same verve of the previous four seasons, with Steve Carell again pitch-perfect as the geeky moron nobody respects. The supporting cast — including Rainn Wilson, Jenna Fischer and John Krasinski — is excellent, and while the show never has bested its BBC counterpart, it can be beautifully cutting in its damning observations of who’s in charge, why they’re in charge, and the sad realization that they have no business being in charge. Grade: B+

“Punch Drunk Love” Blu-ray: Director Paul Thomas Anderson casts Adam Sandler as Barry Egan, a passive-aggressive social misfit who is given the gift of Emma Watson as his unlikely love interest. The film works better than you might expect. It uses the hostility that has underscored all of Sandler’s previous performances and mellows him out with the prospect of love. This remains, by far, his best performance, with the actor suggesting that given the right material, he can turn out a good film that proves he can act. Rated R. Grade: B+

“Van Helsing” Blu-ray: As chaotic as it is, “Van Helsing” never wants for energy, it doesn’t take itself seriously, and as a whole, it’s rather fun. Loosely based on Bram Stoker’s stake-wielding character from his 1897 novel “Dracula,” the film gathers several well-known monsters and villains from the past, and allows them to go at each other’s undead throats for the better half of two hours. Hugh Jackman is Van Helsing, a swarthy hero multitasking for the Vatican who has been charged to kill Count Dracula, played by Richard Roxburgh in buckles-and-brocade attire. Drac’s drag is unsettling, but more disturbing is that in order to kill the count, Van Helsing first needs to go through Frankenstein’s Monster (Shuler Hensley), who turns out to be an intellectual softy, and the Wolf Man (Will Kemp), whose bite apparently holds the key to killing Dracula. Who knew? Tossed into the mix is Kate Beckinsale’s Anna Valerious, who sounds like an invasive species of plant for good reason. Onscreen, Beckinsale uncoils like an undulating vine. Her rolling Romanian accent gives the film the necessary jolt it needs, but so do the three shrieking, winged vamps who take to the skies to do Dracula’s dirty work. In a bloodthirsty, dead-three-centuries sort of way, they’re all perfectly charming if a bit high-strung and unmannered, which proves perfect for this empty but entertaining blockbuster that embraces the same qualities. Rated PG-13. Grade: B

WeekinRewind.com is the site for Bangor Daily News film critic Christopher Smith’s blog, DVD giveaways and movie reviews. Smith’s reviews appear Fridays and weekends in Lifestyle, as well as on bangordailynews.com. He may be reached at Christopher@weekinrewind.com.

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