New Releases this week include Hugh Jackman’s last go around as the character who made him famous, a morbid YA take on Groundhog’s Day, and yet another Christian-themed film just in time for lent.
1. Logan (Fox, 4,071 Theaters, 137 Minutes, Rated R for strong brutal violence and language throughout, and for brief nudity, Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer at press time: 94% Fresh [206 Reviews]: Hugh Jackman has been playing Wolverine for almost 17 years, a fact that is at once amazing and depressing. It’s amazing because few actors are associated with a role for that long and depressing because it makes all of us who remember him being cast feel old.
We must remember that Jackman was at best the third choice to play the character. Russell Crowe was offered it first, passed on it but recommended the then unknown Jackman, but Dougray Scott was cast instead. When Scott had scheduling issues, Jackman was pressed into service at the last minute.
Fans were hesitant to say the least. Logan was one of the most popular characters in comics. Jackman was an unknown stage musical actor from Australia, more likely to belt out a show tune than belt a bad guy in the mouth. But he won fans over. Granted, the way the character was written and directed helped, but Jackman came to embody the character in a way few actors could.
If this is in fact the last time Jackman plays Logan, and in Hollywood you can never say never, It appears that he is going out on a good note. The film has received great reviews, including one from our own Rich Drees. If you go see it this weekend, be sure to get there early. Because the tricky devils at Fox have taken the usual post-credit scene and put it before the credits.
2. The Shack (Lionsgate/Summit, 2,888 Theaters, 132 Minutes, Rated PG-13 for thematic material including some violence, Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer at press time: 15% Fresh [27 Reviews]: It would be easy to lump this film in with the typical Christian film fare, you know, the movies like God Is Dead or Saving Christmas that are done on the cheap using once popular actors whose main point is too show how Christ can really make your life better.
And this film does check off a few of those categories. At $20 million, it counts as a cheap film. Also, the cast features the likes of Sam Worthington, Alica Braga and Graham Greene. But it also features Octavia Spencer, who received an Oscar nomination this very year for a role in an Oscar nominated movie. And it is distributed by Lionsgate, a more prestigious company than usually puts these types of film out (irony of ironies, it is also the same distributor of the Saw films and Bill Maher’s religion challenging documentary, Religulous). And the film is also released in a greater number of theaters than these film usually are shown in.
However, that doesn’t make the film any less unctuous. It details Worthington’s character, a father whose daughter was abducted and brutally murdered during a camping trip, who is asked to return to the cabin where the murder took place in order to meet God (Spencer). Thus the process of clichéd Christian healing begins. I don’t really mean to mock, and the message of healing through forgiveness is a good one, but any Christian film that features lines like you see in the trailer (“Where were you when I needed you?,” “I never left you!’) means that the execution of that message is flawed.
3. Before I Fall (Open Road Films, 2,346 Theaters, 99 Minutes, Rated PG-13 for mature thematic content involving drinking, sexuality, bullying, some violent images, and language-all involving teens, Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer at press time: 71% Fresh [72 Reviews]: Sam (Zoey Deutch) is trapped reliving the same day over and over. She must modify her behavior in some way in order to break free of the loop.
Sounds like a Young Adult rip-off of Groundhog’s Day, right? Well, while Phil Conners was trapped the hellish 9to him) existence of waking up every day in Punxsutawney, Pa, Sam is reliving her last day on Earth, as each day ends in a fatal car wreck. So the stakes are a little bit higher than just trying to get Andie McDowell to fall in love with her.
While the film seems like one that should be over in 20 minutes (just do not get in the car, duh!), the film has received some good reviews. It might rise above its derivative beginnings.
Next week, a 8,000 pound gorilla chases away all competitors