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Roland E. Zwick RSS Feed (Valencia, Ca USA)

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Lee Daniels' The Butler
Lee Daniels' The Butler
DVD ~ Forest Whitaker
Price: $5.00
72 used & new from $0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Flawed but makes its points well, February 8, 2014
This review is from: Lee Daniels' The Butler (DVD)
"Lee Daniels' The Butler" is a highly fictionalized account of the life of Eugene Allen, a black man who served as butler in the White House for 34 years (he was even there to greet the first black president in 2009). It's so highly fictionalized, in fact, that even the character's name has been changed to Cecil Gaines.

Allen - and by proxy, Gaines' - years of service coincided with one of the most volatile periods in the nation's history in terms of civil rights advances. As conceived by screenwriter Danny Strong, Cecil is a near-Zelig (or Forrest Gump, if you prefer)-type character who stands witness to history as a cavalcade of presidents, policy makers, racists, civil rights activists and seminal events go marching by on their way to the future.

Though it has its share of undeniable shortcomings, "The Butler" does a couple of things very well. First, it effectively drives home the very real reasons blacks in the pre-civil rights era had for deferring to whites. At a time when even the slightest hint of reproach or of standing up for oneself could result in society-sanctioned death (be it through beating, shooting or lynching), it's understandable that many blacks developed a go-along-to-get-along mentality just to survive. And that's where the second quality aspect of the movie comes in: the illustration of just how much courage it took for the early "agitators" to stand up against the deeply entrenched system of Jim Crow laws that for decades allowed such atrocities to go unpunished. Cecil is caught between the old-school view of not rocking the boat and the new era of radical change in which blacks - along with sympathetic white allies - have begun to assert their right to be treated as equals. This leads to much butting of heads between Cecil and his son, Louis (David Oyelowo), a Freedom Rider who refuses to stand back and wait for change to come incrementally and at the white man's behest, opting instead to take a more proactive role in actualizing his own future - even at the risk of being beaten, imprisoned or even murdered for his efforts. And at what point should non-violent passive resistance yield to violent self-defense and retaliation when the former seems to be yielding few tangible results?

"The Butler" is at its most compelling when it is dealing with such issues. On the debit side, the movie provides an array of none-too-impressive impersonations of famous people - Robin Williams as Eisenhower, John Cusack as Nixon, James Marsden as Kennedy, Minka Kelly as Jackie, Liev Schreiber as Johnson, Alan Rickman as Reagan, Jane Fonda as Nancy, Nelsan Ellis as Martin Luther King, Jr. - doubly hampered by less-than-convincing makeup jobs in many of those cases. Moreover, the movie can't entirely avoid that taint of smug self-righteousness that inevitably attaches itself to movies whose main purpose for being is to Do Good. It's particularly egregious in the lugubrious narration delivered by the main character. Yet even that is kept to an acceptable minimum.

Forest Whitaker does well with a role that is too sketchily written at times, for when a character is being called upon to be Everyman, he often emerges as No Man. One often gets the sense that the events that happen to him are less the product of a life being organically lived and more contrivances designed to make him a symbol of the times in which he lived. By its very nature, the schematic nature of the storytelling deprives the man of his much of his individuality, which should definitely not be the case in a movie in which individuality and personhood are at the very core of its message.

Of the supporting performers, it is Oprah Winfrey who makes the deepest mark as Cecil's alcoholic, philandering wife, a woman whose combination of virtues and flaws makes her a convincing, relatable character. Other well-known faces in the cast include Terrance Howard as her love interest, Vanessa Redgrave as a plantation owner, Maria Carey as Cecil's young mother, Cuba Gooding, Jr. as the White House's chief butler, Clarence Williams III as the man who inspires Cecil to become a butler, and Lenny Kravtiz as a fellow butler at the White House.

For all its flaws, "The Butler" ultimately reminds us that it takes both the Cecile Gainses and the Louis Gainses to truly change society. And that's a lesson well worth heeding.

DVD ~ Dane Cook
Price: $13.53
69 used & new from $3.91

4.0 out of 5 stars Unlike "Cars," "Planes" keeps moving, January 23, 2014
This review is from: Planes (DVD)
An offshoot of the "Cars" franchise, "Planes" sets its classic be-all-you-can-be underdog story in the context of a lowly crop duster (Dane Cook) who dreams of one day competing against the big boys of the air (i.e., all those planes built for speed) in a race around the world. With the help of a fuel truck (Brad Garrett), two forklifts (Terri Hatcher and Danny Mann) and a retired navy bomber named Riley (Stacy Keach), who imparts his wisdom and pointers to the eager, fresh-faced lad, Dusty sets out to prove that he is every bit the flyer that those bigger, sleeker and more aerodynamically advanced airplanes are. Just one slight problem though: turns out little Dusty is deathly afraid of heights.

With its roots planted firmly in the tradition of "Around the World in 80 Days" and "The Great Race," "Planes" has grace and charm to spare, as Dusty swoops and soars through the heavens on his way to realizing his dreams. Along the way, he meets up with an international potpourri of fellow aircraft, including Bulldog (John Cleese ) from England, El Chupacabra (Carlos Alazraqui) from Mexico, Rochelle (Julia Louise-Dreyfuss) from Canada (the French part, of course) and Ishani (Priyanka Chopra) from India.

And off we sail into the wild blue yonder, thanks to a witty script by Jeffrey M. Howard, clean direction by Klay Hall, and top-notch visuals that beautifully create a familiar-looking modern world that's totally devoid of people (even the Statue of Liberty is in the form of a patriotic forklift). All those elements combine to make this animated version of "Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines" (minus the men, of course) a delight to behold.

In fact, "Planes" is what "Cars" logically should have been but wasn't, that is a freewheeling adventure built on movement and speed; instead, the original movie, for some reason, allowed itself to get mired in that dull small town for so long that it eventually stalled out. "Planes," on the other hand, keeps the narrative in full-speed-ahead mode throughout - and that makes all the difference.

The Master (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy)
The Master (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy)
DVD ~ Philip Seymour Hoffman
Price: $9.88
38 used & new from $4.54

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not easy to like, yet hard to resist, January 23, 2014
In "The Master," set in 1950, Joaquin Phoenix plays Freddie Quell, a World War II vet apparently suffering from alcoholism and PTSD, who comes under the influence of a mind reprogramming cult called The Cause (modeled, obviously, on Scientology). Phillip Seymour Hoffman plays the Svengali-like leader who personally befriends Freddie while casting a spell over both him and his entire flock of believers.

Paul Thomas Anderson will never be a crowd-pleasing filmmaker. His movies revel in "strange" plots and "weird" characters. The themes and narrative lines are not always clear-cut or easily discernible. But for the more adventurous moviegoer, there is always much to appreciate and mull over in a PTA film. And "The Master" is no exception. In fact, it may be his most demanding work to date.

It certainly provides a challenge to the casual moviegoer, for "The Master" is one of those rare films that doesn't have even a single character who could be classified as sympathetic and likable - a fact that many in the audience may find off-putting, to put it mildly. This makes the performances by Phoenix and Hoffman particularly impressive since they are called upon to make generally unappealing central characters interesting and compelling.

Anderson's screenplay does its best to keep the characters deliberately opaque. Freddie is both intrigued by and strangely resistant to Lancaster Dodd's influence, quick to defend him - even to the point of physical violence if necessary - when faced with one of the leader's many detractors, but strong-willed enough to make a run for it when the opportunity presents itself. It's hard to tell whether Freddie's uncontrolled outbursts and bouts of antisocial behavior are strictly the result of the PTSD from which he's suffering or whether he is just an S.O.B. by nature and the illness is just exacerbating those tendencies.

Dodd is no less inscrutable a figure. He is clearly a power-hungry charlatan, but he seems to have a genuine fondness for this deeply troubled young man who has stumbled onto his path. Yet, since we never get to see Dodd in even one genuinely unguarded moment - never once is the public mask dropped to reveal the man within - the movie becomes the cinematic equivalent of a Rorschach's Test, with the audience free to project whatever it sees fit onto the character in terms of personality and motive. This goes for the other characters as well. Dodd's wife (Amy Adams), daughter (Ambyr Childers), son (Jesse Plemons) and son-in-law (Rami Malek) remain largely peripheral figures in the drama - which is, I suspect, a deliberate move on the part of the writer, showing how living in the shadow of The Master has left them with no identity or persona that they can truly call their own.

None of this is really intended as a criticism of the film, for I'd much rather grapple with a movie whose characters are filled with ambiguity than one in which they are too easily understood and read. But it does explain why the movie isn't always easy to like and relate to. But that is what makes movie watching interesting and rewarding, after all.

And on a final side note, I'd like to point out that whoever hired dead-ringer Jesse Plemons for the role of Hoffman's son should have received a special Oscar for casting. Rarely have we seen a more fit choice to portray another actor's offspring. Well done, Sir or Madam!

The Act of Killing + Digital Copy
The Act of Killing + Digital Copy
DVD ~ Haji Anif
Price: $14.99
22 used & new from $12.43

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A truly surreal experience, January 22, 2014

Imagine walking up to a known killer and asking him to reenact one of his murders, then questioning him about all the gory details. Well, that’s exactly what Joshua Oppenheimer, the maker of the documentary “The Act of Killing,” did - over and over again, in fact.

The killers in question all committed their atrocities fifty-some-odd years ago as part of an anti-Communist purge in Indonesia perpetrated by the military dictatorship that had just risen to power there (it‘s made clear at the very beginning of the film that the “Communists“ were often just farmers, union members, Chinese immigrants, intellectuals and anyone not supportive of the military regime). In one year’s time, over a million such people had been slaughtered. Today many of the killers, all of whom have gone unpunished for their crimes, are now in positions of great influence and power in the government. The focus of the film is on two men and their minions in particular: Anwar Congo and Ad Zulkadry, members of one of the death squads in North Sumatra, personally responsible for the deaths of thousands. Congo went on to found a paramilitary right-wing organization known as Pemuda Pancasila, which boasts many adherents and followers - mainly young people - even today.

The makers of “The Act of Killing” have gathered together this group of self-proclaimed “gangsters,” who have decided to make a mainstream movie on the subject with themselves and their buddies as the stars. But what the documentarians actually wanted was to give these men the opportunity to relate not only how they committed the murders but how they feel about it all nearly five decades later. And it is their responses in this regard that make this such a stunning and disturbing movie to sit through. For not only is there virtually no remorse - or even much of an attempt at rationalization - expressed over the people they tortured and killed, these men can barely contain their feelings of nostalgia and pride as they regale their audiences with their memories. There are a few moments of quiet reflection: one man discusses the nightmares he occasionally has about the people he strangled; another dismisses concerns of morality by arguing that one generation’s war crimes are another generation’s accepted practices, and that the victors ultimately get to determine what is right and what is wrong in the long view of history (he brings up America’s decimation of its indigenous peoples and Bush’s sanctioning of torture at Guantanamo Bay as examples to buttress his argument). Apparently the PR spokesman for the group, this individual has at least enough of a perspective to fear that the movie that they are making may actually make themselves look cruel and the Communists sympathetic in the eyes of the general public if they re-create the tortures and killings too effectively.

Yet, such moments are the exceptions. Most of the time, we’re learning about how gratifying it can be to take another man’s life or rape a child or burn down a terrified family’s house as they watch. And it’s all supposed to be okay since “gangster” really means “free man,” a fact we are told at least a dozen times throughout the course of the movie. That is somehow supposed to justify not only the killings in the past but the corruption and abuse of power many of them are perpetrating in the present. And, most shockingly of all, the media and much of the general populace of the area seem to go along with it - though how much of their approbation is actually the product of fear is anyone’s guess.

The irony is that, while these “gangsters” keep declaiming against the evils of Communism, they have set up their own positions of power in a way perfectly aligned with how that system has worked wherever it has been tried. For instance, we see one of the men wending his way through a crowded marketplace, going from one honest, hardworking shopkeeper to another, extorting money through threats, and, later, running (unsuccessfully) for parliament so he‘ll be able to wring even more money out of the decent citizens of his country.

Many of the men point to Hollywood as their inspiration, explaining how they adopted many of the tough-guy styles and attitudes they saw in pictures in their youth - and even some of their torture and killing techniques. Score another one for American exports!

We’ve seen so many dramatized accounts of genocide and war crimes in movies and on TV that seeing these actual perpetrators re-enacting their atrocities takes the subject to a whole new level. And the depressing part is to realize that these are not just isolated cases, that the world is indeed full of such men eager to trumpet the evil they’ve done. It’s true that, near the end, Congo has what appears to be a breakdown of remorse, finally comprehending what it is he did all those years ago. But is it too little, too late? And how much of it is genuine and how much of it is staged? (These are “actors,” after all). Unfortunately for these men, redemption cannot be had for the price of a movie ticket.

It’s safe to say that “The Act of Killing” provided me with the most surreal experience I’ve ever had watching a movie. At times, I found myself thinking it must be some sort of put-on, an elaborate piece of street theater designed to trick the unwary into believing it’s real. Alas, it isn’t a hoax, and, for that reason alone, it emerges as one of the most deeply disturbing looks into the dark heart of humanity ever put on film.

Fast & Furious 6
Fast & Furious 6
DVD ~ Vin Diesel
Price: $9.96
108 used & new from $2.59

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Status quo, January 22, 2014
This review is from: Fast & Furious 6 (DVD)
“Fast & Furious 6” gives the series’ rabid fan base pretty much everything it could possibly wish for: an array of uber-expensive, souped-up racecars; a heavy helping of in-group camaraderie; a bunch of super-macho posturing (even from the women); a bevy of scantily-clad, slow-motion groupies; a moderate dose of tough-guy sentiment (nothing too girly though); a smidgen of comic relief; a raft of ear-piercing gun battles and, of course, the series’ patented trademark, a whole mess of turbo-charged chase scenes.

The plot - since contractual obligations demand there be one, I suppose - involves our favorite band of car racing outlaws (Paul Walker, Vin Diesel, Sung Kang, Tyrese Gibson, et. al ) coming out of “retirement” in various foreign lands to help Dwayne Johnson’s DSS agent take down an international heist gang in exchange for full immunity for the crew back in the States. There’s a lot of talk about “the family” and much romantic palaver between Diesel and Michelle Rodriguez, but that’s basically just filler between all the spectacular (if scarcely plausible) race sequences - which is as it should be when you’re fast and furious.

“Fast & Furious 6” ends with one of those “don’t try this at home” provisos, which in light of the recent tragic fate of series star Paul Walker, seems more vital and relevant than ever (not to mention ironically prescient). Heed the warning.

Despicable Me 2
Despicable Me 2
DVD ~ Steve Carell
Price: $9.99
94 used & new from $3.94

4.0 out of 5 stars Fun sequel, January 21, 2014
This review is from: Despicable Me 2 (DVD)
“Despicable Me 2” provides us with the further adventures of Gru, the arch villain who, at the end of the first film, had given up his evil ways to become a doting dad and a respectable business man. However, because he has insider knowledge on how evildoers work, he’s been tapped by a top-secret spy organization to go undercover and help save the world from bad guys who are not quite as reformed as he is. Gru teams up with Lucy Wilde, an attractive agent who also becomes a love interest, to find out who absconded with an entire research laboratory in the Arctic with the use of a giant magnet.

While it’s true that Gru, as a character, is probably more interesting and fun when he‘s plotting crimes rather than fighting them, “Despicable Me 2” is still an entertaining and colorful diversion for audiences of all ages. Steve Carell, Kristin Wiig, Benjamin Bratt, Russell Brand, Steve Coogan and Ken Jeong are some of the better-known actors who provide the voice work for the film.

DVD ~ Daniel Day-Lewis
Price: $13.99
68 used & new from $3.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great historical film, January 19, 2014
This review is from: Lincoln (DVD)
For his biopic "Lincoln," rather than try to cram a man's entire life into a two-and-a-half-hour running time, Steven Spielberg has wisely chosen to keep the focus circumscribed and narrow: on the winter of 1865, four years into the Civil War, as the President works to secure passage of the highly controversial 13th Amendment, which, when ratified, will abolish slavery as an institution in the United States for all time to come. Lincoln's main hope is to convince a skeptical and still highly racist public that such a move is essential to bringing an end to a war that has already claimed 600,000 of their young men's lives. The obstacles that remain are the Democrats in Congress who are universally opposed to such a move and many Republicans who think this constitutional amendment may well pave the way to universal suffrage, with not just blacks but women ultimately being given the right to vote. Lincoln's major hope is to convince a sufficient number of lame duck Democrats to come over to his side, while not allowing the amendment's passage to throw a monkey wrench into any possibility of surrender on the part of the Confederacy.

A man of both faith and reason, pragmatism and passion, Lincoln knew that he stood on the threshold of history, that he needed to act decisively and at that very moment to wipe out the scourge of slavery that, since the young nation's inception, had brought shame and evil to a republic ostensibly founded on the concept that all men are created equal.

The movie beautifully captures Lincoln as a man bowed down by the burden of his position and the times in which he not only lived but played so vital a role in shaping, a brilliant but self-effacing man, keenly cognizant of his humble beginnings, as ready to lend an ear to the lowliest foot soldier or telegraph operator as to the greatest general or politician - indeed more eager in some cases, for he knew that the common man often had more honesty in his answer and wisdom in his soul than the great one. .

This is the man whom screenwriter Tony Kushner and author Doris Kearns Goodwin, upon whose book "Team of Rivals" the movie is based, present to the audience.

But that isn't all. The movie also functions as both a fascinating look into the events of the time and as an illustration of how even the noblest advances in human history have often arisen out of a messy combination of moral compromise and shady back-room deal-making. The most obvious embodiment of that is Thaddeus Stephens (played with solid conviction and a sly self-awareness by Tommy Lee Jones), a Republican Congressman who has to weigh his strong abolitionist views against the pragmatic need to get things right.

The script encompasses Lincoln's domestic circle as well, as it explores the complex relationship between Lincoln and his wife, Mary Todd (Sally Field), a brutally frank, sharp-tongued woman frequently brought low by debilitating migraines and steeped in grief over the loss of their young son, Todd, a few years back.
We also see the effect of all this on the Lincolns' oldest son, Robert (Joseph Gordon- Levitt), who is forced to live in the shadow of a great man, convinced he will never be able to live at peace with himself unless he is allowed to fight alongside all the other boys of his age on the field of battle.

A host of familiar faces - David Strathairn, Hal Holbrook, Walter Goggins, James Spader, S. Epatha Merkerson, among them - flesh out the canvas. And what a glorious canvas it turns out to be, thanks to meticulous set decoration and costume design as well as cinematography by the great Janusz Kaminski that filters the action through duskily-lit interiors and near-sepia-toned exteriors.

Of course, "Lincoln" would not be the triumph it is without the exemplary performance of Daniel Day-Lewis, who manages to turn a towering figure of history into a recognizable human being. Stoop-shouldered and slow of speech and movement, Lewis conveys the quiet gravity that allows us to understand just how this one man could command the respect of so many of the people of his time and, in so doing, move mountains.

All involved have made "Lincoln" a portrait worthy of its subject.

DVD ~ Iñaki Goci
Price: $5.00
100 used & new from $1.40

3.0 out of 5 stars A sci-fi allegory for the Occupy generation, January 17, 2014
This review is from: Elysium (DVD)

In the year 2154, the earth has become a veritable wasteland of poverty, pollution and overpopulation (what a surprise). The wealthy elite have long since fled to a paradisiacal spaceship named Elysium (after the section in the Greek underworld reserved exclusively for heroes and poets) permanently orbiting the planet, where they lead lives of pampered ease, leaving the great unwashed masses back home to fend for themselves. Some of those masses make occasional desperate stabs at reaching the ship, where they are captured and put into camps, if they're lucky, or blown to smithereens before being able to land if they're not. Matt Damon plays a Joe Blow schmuck who, after receiving a fatal dose of radiation on the job, agrees to get in with a pretty bad crowd in order to get to Elysium to get a cure (the wealthy have all the medicines while the poor are left on Earth to sicken and die).

A post-apocalyptic tale for the Occupy generation, this allegory of class division and illegal immigration is the brainchild of Neill Blomkamp, the South African writer/director who gave us the surprise critical and commercial hit "District 9" in 2009.

Unfortunately, in a number of respects, "Elysium" doesn't quite rise to the level of that earlier film. Damon's Max de Costa is such a dull Everyman character that he goes from relatable to boring in no time flat. And the story, though promising at first, quickly stalls out, as Max spends an inordinate amount of the movie's running time just trying to get up to Elysium - though, once he gets there, things do pick up considerably.

Purse-lipped Jodi Foster hams it up as the cold-blooded defense secretary whose job it is to make sure that nothing or no one threatens the idyllic life in Elysium - a woman so evil and callous she makes Cruella Deville and the Wicked Witch of the West look like Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm.

Shortcomings aside, however, "Elysium" uses first-rate art direction and production design to create a compelling vision of the future. Its sociopolitical subtext also lends it a gravitas that the story itself could never have achieved on its own. Add to that a genuinely touching ending and you have a movie that fails to fulfill the promise laid out by "District 9" but which has virtues of its own to recommend it.

Frances Ha
Frances Ha
DVD ~ Greta Gerwig

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A perceptive comic look at youth in the city, January 16, 2014
This review is from: Frances Ha (DVD)

Noah Baumbach's "Frances Ha" has the freeform charm and exuberance of all those independent American and European films from the late 1950s and '60s about unfettered youth finding their way in the world. The comparison is made most striking by the gorgeous black-and-white cinematography that Sam Levy has provided for the film.

Caught in that awkward period where one has not completely shrugged off the dependency of childhood yet not quite attained the full independence of adulthood, Frances is a 27-year-old dancer who's just a little too gangly, a little too relationship-phobic and a little too broke to feel truly secure about herself and her future. She and her best friend, Sophie, a publisher for Random House, are so close that they frequently refer to themselves jokingly as a single person and as a lesbian couple who never has sex. They share an apartment in Brooklyn - that is until Sophie moves in with another friend in another part of town, leaving Frances to secure lodgings with two fellows, Lev and Benji. There's a touch of "Jules and Jim" in the relationship between Frances and the men, a bit of "Georgy Girl" in Frances' bouts with insecurity and high-spirited kookiness. And it all feels vaguely Bohemian (Lev is a sculptor and rides motorcycles and Benji is a TV comedy writer) as any tale of young folk living in New York certainly should.

Nothing quite turns out the way Frances wants them to, not her career moves, not her relationships; even an impromptu trip to The City of Lights turns out to be a dud. Rather than admit to little and not-so-little defeats in her life, Francis spins a web of fibs designed to convince others that she's doing just fine, thank you very much. But the defining feature of Frances' life is the growing jealousy she feels towards Sophie's fiancé who seems to be taking her best buddy and emotional "life partner" away from her.

Yet, all this makes "Frances Ha" sound like some heavy-breathing tragedy, when nothing indeed could be further from the truth. It is, in fact, a delightfully droll and fetching comedy that doesn't over-rely on quirkiness as so many low budget independent comedies are wont to do. As written by Baumbach and Greta Gerwig, the screenplay finds a beautiful balance between poignancy and humor, highbrow wit and lowbrow farce. And as Frances, Gerwig brings to life one of the most purely appealing characters we've come across in quite some time, a flighty free-spirit whose self-consciousness and keen powers of observation keep her at least partially grounded in reality. She's matched in performance by Mickey Sumner as Sophie, Adam Driver as Lev and Michael Zegen as Benji.

Together they and Baumbach have made a film that, though it may look like an art house oddity at first glance, has enough broad appeal to pull it into the mainstream.

The Wolverine
The Wolverine
DVD ~ Hugh Jackman
Price: $7.99
44 used & new from $2.93

4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Dull plotting negates the movie's virtues, January 15, 2014
This review is from: The Wolverine (DVD)

Pity poor Logan, aka The Wolverine, that immortal lycanthropic mutant with retractable adamantine claws played by that Jack-of-all-trades entertainer Hugh Jackman. All Logan wants is to be left alone to live as a hermit, spending his boundless days working as a logger, brooding over his condition and occasionally talking to the dead wife he accidentally killed who shows up occasionally to convince him to do away with himself and join her on the other side (apparently, she doesn't quite get this whole "immortality" thing).

But like Michael Corleone in "Godfather III," every time Logan thinks he's out, someone pulls him back in. In "The Wolverine," that person is a sword-wielding Japanese seer (Rila Fukushima) who convinces Logan to travel to Japan to say goodbye to the aged and dying Japanese prison guard whose life Logan saved during the bombing of Nagasaki. But things are never quite as simple as they seem in the movies, and soon Logan finds himself involved with the Yakuza, ninja warriors, the man's beautiful young granddaughter (Tao Okamoto) and some pretty messy intra-family politics.

Though it features some impressive sword fighting and some cool mano-a-mano fisticuffs atop a Japanese bullet-train, "The Wolverine" ultimately feels empty and half-hearted, a soulless exercise done in by longwinded speechifying and mediocre plotting. Better luck next installment.
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