May 2nd, 2009

X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE (2009) *** ½

Okay, so if anybody couldn’t piece together what happened to Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) before he joined up with the X-Men, then this prequel will fill in every little last detail.  Basically what went down is that the 100 and some odd years old Wolverine fought in every single war from the Civil War to Vietnam alongside his brother, Sabretooth (Liev Schreiber).  After being tried for killing a superior officer, the duo get put before a firing squad, but since they both have regenerative powers, the bullets only tickle them.  So Colonel Stryker (Danny Huston) handpicks them for his special team of mutants who do Black Ops type shit like murdering innocent people and stealing meteorites.  Finally, Wolvie grows a conscience and walks away from the unit and marries some broad up in Canada.  Of course, Sabretooth kills her and Wolverine agrees to let Stryker replace his bones (and more importantly, his claws) with anamantium so he can go out and kick his brother’s ass.

 

Wolverine was always at his best when playing the role of reluctant hero and mentor to the younger X-Men.  Here, he’s center stage and as a result, he loses a bit of his charm.  X-Men Origins:  Wolverine (or X-MOW as I like to call it) fires on all cylinders whenever Wolvie is working with Stryker’s team or when he’s rescuing a bunch of mutants who get to (briefly) show off their powers.  Curiously, it’s the scenes where Wolverine flies solo that fail to entertain.  Wolverine’s (predictably doomed) love affair borders on tedious and his constant run-ins with his arch nemesis Sabretooth lack a lot of oomph since we know that Wolvie kills him in X-Men 1.  Luckily there are plenty of scenes of mutant melees and X-Men experimentation to make you forget the fact that most of the plot shit had already been thoroughly covered in Parts 1 & 2.

 

Jackman puts in another solid turn as the man behind the claws, but it’s the supporting mutants that really steal the show.  First and foremost is Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool.  He makes the most out of his limited screen time and his wiseass demeanor fits the character like a glove.  Taylor Kitsch also does a fine job as Gambit, the card-tossing, cane-twirling Cajun and Kevin Durand is a hoot as the massively overweight Blob.  There are also a gaggle of surprise mutant cameos that should have X-Fans grinning.  Oh and make sure you stay after the credits because there is an extra bit of business that sets up another X-Men spin-off movie.  (There are two alternate versions out there.)  Even though X-MOW doesn’t quite live up to it’s three predecessors, it still remains a solidly entertaining comic book flick and is a heck of a way to start the summer blockbuster season.

 

X-Men Origins:  Wolverine claws it way to the Number 6 spot on The Video Vacuum Top Ten of the Year, just below Watchmen and right above The Last House on the Left.

THE DIABOLICAL DR. Z (1967) **

Jess Franco directed this middling science fiction tinged horror flick that may bore even his most ardent fans.  It’s all about a wheelchair bound scientist named Dr. Z (he looks like the offspring of Dr. Strangelove and Henry Kissinger) who creates a form of artificial mind control.  After successfully turns an escaped criminal into his slave, he goes before a panel of scientists lead by none other than Doctor Orloff (Howard Vernon) himself.  Everyone mocks Z for his silly idea and calls him a charlatan and the poor dude keels over from a heart attack right there on the spot.  Dr. Z’s demented daughter then perfects her father’s experiments and goes on to control the mind of a sexy cabaret dancer named “Miss Death” (Estella Blain).  She injects Miss Death’s super long fingernails with a fast-acting poison and makes her seek out and murder the scientists who ridiculed her father into an early grave.

 

You know, I read a lot of reviews that claimed this flick is one of Franco’s best.  I don’t know about all that.  It’s definitely no Female Vampire or Sadomania that’s for sure.  Franco films things in his usual point-and-shoot manner and although the cinematography is crisp, The Diabolical Dr. Z comes up quite short in the atmosphere department.  The movie also suffers from a decided lack of Franco trademarks; namely sex and sleaze.  The biggest crime the film perpetrates it that we never truly learn just how diabolical Dr. Z is since he croaks before the end of the first reel. 

 

The flick is not without its merits though.  There is a decent body count and the face operating scene wasn’t too shabby either.  The best part comes when Miss Death does her sexy little dance routine.  I especially admired the way she filled out that sexy body stocking.  Ms. Blain isn’t much of an actress, yet she has a definite knack for writhing around seductively on a giant spider web.  

 

For the most part though, The Diabolical Dr. Z is just pretty lame and more than a tad boring.  Die hard Franco-philes will enjoy seeing the director turning up in a supporting role as the detective who saves the day.  He isn’t bad in front of the camera but he could’ve done a lot better while in the director’s chair.  I mean come on Jess; you know you screwed up when a character says, “Take off your dress!  Hurry!  There’s no time to lose!” and then you only show the chick naked from the back.  You know better than that Jess.

 

AKA:  Miss Death.  AKA:  Miss Death and Dr. Z in the Grip of the Maniac.