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The Wolverine and The To Do List: reviews of last week's new releases

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The Wolverine


The Wolverine:

James Mangold’s The Wolverine, the sixth installment in the X-Men film franchise, is the least “busy” superhero film in memory. It’s a very simple story of one hero, haunted by his past, plagued by what the future may hold. Wolverine, played as ever by Hugh Jackman, is referred to early on as “a ronin– a samurai with no master.” After having his invulnerability tragically weakened, we get to watch as Wolverine pushes forward, refusing to let his new mortality get in the way of doing what’s right. For the most part, the action is well-shot (a chase on top of a bullet train is especially exciting), yet this film diverts from the usual comic book film path and focuses on the characters first and foremost. There are maybe four action sequences in this two-hour film: some may find that a fatal flaw, yet I admired it for taking the time to develop its relationships and give Jackman some material to *ahem* sink his claws into. The film’s problem, however, is that it offers a paucity of thrills or surprises; the “reveal” of the villain at the end is the most painfully obvious I can recall, and when the movie tries to end on a high note, it simply reverts into the usual busy comic book cluttered action that so few can master. The Wolverine is good enough to be called the second-best X-Men movie to date… but I wouldn’t call it anything more than merely good.

The To Do List:

I long for a world with more R-rated comedies made by women for women. Maggie Carey’s The To Do List aspires to create an American Pie for the fairer sex; girls can be just as raunchy and sexually curious as guys, and I look forward to the day when a female American Pie can catch on with the public. Unfortunately, this isn’t it… and I wouldn’t even call it particularly successful on the whole. This tale of a studious virgin looking to experiment sexually before the Big Cherry Pop is mostly a series of “look! girls saying naughty things! how shocking!” set pieces without the required wit to make this material elevate above standard comedy fare. Aubrey Plaza can be a wonderful actress in the right role, but her irony-laced delivery doesn’t suit this role, full of nerdy busybody one-liners and slapstick behavior. I longed for, say, Anne Hathaway circa Princess Diaries: someone more earnest. The few laughs come courtesy of Bill Hader and Andy Samberg, seasoned scene-stealers whose best lines feel like throwaway ad-libs rather than essential story-progressing clever writing. I admired how casually sex was handled here (until its cop-out ending), and as someone who was approaching middle school during this film’s setting, the period details are spot-on. However, although I’m admittedly not the target audience, I simply didn’t find the movie very funny. Admirable, yes, and an example of a genre we need more of, absolutely… but its execution falls well short of its concept’s potential.