[31 Days of Horror Part VI: Jason Lives] Day 9 – The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016)

Director: André Øvredal

Cast: Emile Hirsch, Brian Cox, Ophelia Lovibond, Michael McElhatton, Olwen Kelly

Screenplay: Ian Goldberg, Richard Niang

86 mins. Rated R for bloody horror violence, unsettling grisly images, graphic nudity, and language.

 

I don’t think enough people talk about André Øvredal (Trollhunter, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark). To be fair, he hadn’t made a mainstream movie until this year, but horror fans should be celebrating this auteur and his amazing attention to tone and suspense. One of his more recent films, The Autopsy of Jane Doe, skirted under the radar when it came out in 2016, but it’s on Netflix now, so I finally caught it.

Father/son coroners Tommy (Brian Cox, X2: X-Men United, TV’s Succession) and Austin (Emile Hirsch, Into the Wild, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood) have been tasked by local police with a rather curious task. A body has been recovered at a crime scene, a woman with no easily discernible identity or cause of death. Sheriff Burke (Michael McElhatton, Justice League, TV’s Game of Thrones) has asked the two to discover answers to both before morning, and as they delve into the mystery, they are beset upon by strange happenings, all possibly linked with the dead woman on the slab.

This is a tight little thriller, pretty much singular-location, that led by two excellent performances from two talented individuals. This movie doesn’t work without the talent of Hirsch and Cox. Their chemistry is strained just like it should be, with Tommy wanting his son to carry on the family business, and Austin not too interested in that idea. There’s a scene in the elevator that allows them to dig into the tension between themselves without really leaving the inherent suspense of what’s going on during the autopsy.

Speaking of the autopsy itself, it’s absolutely incredible to have an actual actress playing the body. I get it, you’re thinking how easy it must be to just sit there, but I’ll tell you, there isn’t a moment that I noticed movement. In so many films featuring a character death where you can see them breathing softly, but not with Jane Doe, played by Olwen Kelly (Winter Ridge, Darkness on the Edge of Town). So yes, hers isn’t an acting powerhouse, but she succeeds where she’s trying to: giving an authentic visual aesthetic that makes Jane Doe look realistic without drawing away from the story or suspense.

Øvredal has a command of the story here and slowly unravels layers of this mystery with biting pressure and some seriously strange visual and audio cues. The movie is a tightly-wrapped mystery filled with strange moments, and for the most part, everything works. I’m not big on the final moments of the story, where I feel like it comes off the rails a bit and sacrifices some of the story for the option to go weird with it, and I feel like it doesn’t stick the landing as well as it should, but everything before it is so worth it.

I don’t want to get too deep into the mystery itself because I don’t want to ruin the story for you, but you need to check out The Autopsy of Jane Doe. It’s an elegantly creepy chiller that I cannot recommend enough. The ending may work for you, or it may not, but I don’t think it will detract from the film either way. Seek this one out and see it for yourself. This one is a must-see.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of André Øvredal’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, click here.

The Incredible Hulk (2008)

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Director: Louis Letterrier

Cast: Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, Tim Roth, Tim Blake Nelson, Ty Burrell, William Hurt

Screenplay: Zak Penn

112 mins. Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense action violence, some frightening sci-fi images, and brief suggestive content.

 

In 2008, the Marvel Cinematic Universe began in a silent but deadly fashion with two superhero releases: Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk. The former was a major box office winner and critical darling. The latter was largely dismissed, like every previous incarnation, and hasn’t been referenced much since, due in large part to the difficulties in crafting the film and the replacement of the title actor in The Avengers. The difference between this version of The Incredible Hulk and the previous 2003 film Hulk is that the 2008 film is actually pretty damn good.

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The film is presented in a “Requel” of sorts, chronicling Bruce Banner (Edward Norton, Fight Club, Birdman) and his journey off-the-grid. He has estranged himself from his love Betty Ross (Liv Tyler, TV’s The Leftovers, Armageddon). Betty’s father, General “Thunderbolt” Ross (William Hurt, Into the Wild, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them), continues his obsession with finding Banner and tearing him apart. Ross enlists Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth, Pulp Fiction, Selma), a military mercenary, to help hunt down Bruce. In the process, Blonsky is given some of the same gamma radiation that turned Bruce into the raging creature known as The Hulk.

First off, I’m not going to try and convince you that this is a Best Picture quality superhero film. It isn’t. 2008’s The Incredible Hulk is still, to me, a far superior film to Iron Man, but most won’t agree. I find Bruce Banner to be a more likable character. The relationship between him and Betty Ross is powerful and layered. I also find Tim Roth’s portrayal of Emil Blonsky to be a strong and villainous performance and it helped start the trend of strong villains in Marvel films. Director Louis Leterrier (Now You See Me, Clash of the Titans) even helped set up future villains in the process (though so far none of these have come to pass).

Norton’s portrayal of Banner is great, but the problem with him came from constant rewrites and the fact that Edward Norton is a terrible person to work with on a film set (see Birdman for more info). I can completely understand his replacement with Mark Ruffalo, though it still was a bad way to create this character.

As far as this film’s relationship to the MCU, there are references in there, but they are very quick and underplayed. A lot of references are found to Stark Industries in the opening credits. Then there is the major callback to Tony Stark in the final scene. There are also some moments of setup to the future Captain America: The First Avenger, even a cut scene revealing his fate. Captain America and The Incredible Hulk have a lot in common, so it helps to introduce both at the same time. We will get to finally see some more connective tissues in next year’s Captain America: Civil War when William Hurt returns as General Ross.

The majority of callbacks and references in the film actually highlight the long-storied past of the Hulk on film. There are many moments that call back The Incredible Hulk television series by way of the score and the cameos.

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The Incredible Hulk works as a Requel, meaning it could be a sequel if you enjoyed 2003’s Hulk. If you didn’t, it’s a great opening act. Director Leterrier isn’t anything special, but the film employs some great performances and a terrific screenplay from superhero screenwriter Zak Penn (TV’s Alphas, X2: X-Men United). If you skipped The Incredible Hulk when it came out, take some time to visit it. If it has been a while, take some time to revisit it.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For my review of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man, click here.

For my review of Anthony & Joe Russo’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, click here.

For my review of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy, click here.

 

You can find Kyle A. Goethe on Twitter @AlmightyGoatman

X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)

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Director: Brett Ratner

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Ian McKellan, Famke Janssen, Anna Paquin, Kelsey Grammer, James Marsden, Rebecca Romijn, Shawn Ashmore, Aaron Stanford, Vinnie Jones, Patrick Stewart

Screenplay: Simon Kinberg, Zak Penn

104 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action violence, some sexual content and language.

 

After X2: X-Men United, the superhero series was invigorated and raring to go again. Bryan Singer left to direct Superman Returns, so Brett Ratner took over the chair and creative control of the franchise. This has often been seen as a bad idea. Brett Ratner, not to be blunt, is terrible.

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It’s the story of the mutants dealing with the death of Jean Grey (Famke Janssen, GoldenEye, Taken 3) in the previous film. Logan (Hugh Jackman, The Prestige, Prisoners) appears on the surface to have gotten over her death and has taken on a more important role within the school alongside Ororo Munroe (Halle Berry, TV’s Extant, Cloud Atlas). Meanwhile, Eric Lensherr (Ian McKellan, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Golden Compass) has been recruiting new mutants to join The Brotherhood in the fight against the government, which has created a new treatment or “cure” for mutants. Rogue (Anna Paquin, TV’s True Blood, The Piano) is interested in the cure, but her boyfriend Bobby (Shawn Ashmore, TV’s The Following, Frozen).

There a lot of moving plot points in this movie, but the script is far too weak to fully explore them all. There are multiple times when dialogue is unreal, too much exposition is given (or sometimes, not enough), and characters are doing things that betray their character traits.

The actors are trying to perform to a weak script, and most of them do as well as they can, but Brett Ratner focuses too much on trying to be a spectacle, often sacrificing character moments under piles of action. Now, the action is good, and leads to a solid climax which is handled nicely, but we have a conflict of style. On one hand, we have the previous film, which establishes a seriousness and a stake in what happens. On the other hand, we have a goofy style which pushes against and a more-comic-booky look to the film, something that was handled much better in the prequel X-Men: First Class.

While the climax is handled nicely, Ratner chooses to play down the denouement, which, considering this was supposed to be a closing of the trilogy, is what really kills this movie. We have so many plot threads untreated and ultimately unthreaded that it set the series up for several films of trying to fix the damage, before finally X-Men: Days of Future Past was able to do.

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This isn’t the worst X-Men movie of all time. That honor is currently held by X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but that doesn’t mean that this wasn’t an epic letdown from X2, and served to topple the franchise for a couple years.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For my review of X-Men, click here.

For my review of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, click here.

For my review of X-Men: First Class, click here.

For my review of The Wolverine, click here.

For my review of X-Men: Days of Future Past, click here.

X2: X-Men United (2003)

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Director: Bryan Singer

Cast: Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellan, Halle Berry, Famke Janssen, James Marsden, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Brian Cox, Alan Cumming, Bruce Davison, Anna Paquin

Screenplay: Michael Dougherty, Dan Harris, David Hayter

134 mins. Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action/violence, some sexuality and brief language.

 

X-Men was a very popular comic book adaptation, especially for the time period, when those movies hadn’t really been doing well. I originally wasn’t a major fan of the original X-Men, but I honestly don’t think I got it. I didn’t really know the X-Men mythos, so when X2: X-Men United came into the fold, and I saw the trailer, featuring a creature I would come to know as Nightcrawler (Alan Cumming, TV’s The Good Wife, The Smurfs 2) trying to assassinate the President, that I knew I had to see this movie.

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X2: X-Men United continues the story six months after the original film, and follows the mutants as they deal with a mutant attack on the President. Logan (Hugh Jackman, The Prestige, Prisoners) is looking for his origins in Alaska. Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart, TV’s Star Trek: The Next Generation, Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return) has continued to teach at his school, and spends free time playing chess with imprisoned Magneto (Ian McKellan, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Golden Compass). Meanwhile, William Stryker (Brian Cox, Troy, Her) has taken the attack in the White House personally, and chooses to round up the mutant children at Xavier’s school and keep them imprisoned, and Wolverine finds that he may have more connections to Stryker than he knows.

If X-Men woke up the superhero genre, X2 proved that superhero movies can actually be about something while also being great films in general. Without X2, we may not have had the Marvel Cinematic Universe or any of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight series.

It also proved that people can perform as superheroes. Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan carry this film and drive its story nicely as two friends with very different compasses who must unite against a common enemy in Brian Cox’s Stryker, who also lends his seasoned expertise to the film. Hugh Jackman has also honed his skills as a performer with Wolverine.

Singer’s directing and the film’s editing give us multiple branched out storylines that all come together very well for a powerful and shocking climax that creates ripples for the series for several films to come.

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X2: X-Men United was the best film in the series up until this year’s X-Men: Days of Future Past, and it has aged very well, becoming one of the most notable superhero films ever.

 

5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For my review of X-Men, click here.

For my review of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, click here.

For my review of X-Men: First Class, click here.

For my review of The Wolverine, click here.

For my review of X-Men: Days of Future Past, click here.

X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

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Director: Bryan Singer

Cast: Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Halle Berry, Anna Paquin, Ellen Page, Peter Dinklage, Ian McKellan, Patrick Stewart, Shawn Ashmore

Screenplay: Simon Kinberg

131 mins. Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi violence and action, some suggestive material, nudity and language.

 

Wow, we have a lot to cover here. If you aren’t big on comics or superhero movies, let me catch you up on this real quick. Days of Future Past is pretty much one of the biggest and most important arcs in the entire X-Men series, and now its a movie.

Okay, so real quick, I will be discussing spoilers about previous X-Men films here as it is really the only way to properly review Days of Future Past. Okay? Begin…

 

Alright, let me catch you up to speed here. It is the future (the film doesn’t designate what year, but I’m told through interviews with the filmmakers that it is roughly 2023). Mutants have been mostly captured or killed off and there are precious few left fighting for their freedom against robotic beings called the Sentinels that the government has unleashed on the mutant population. According to the series chronology:

1. & 2. X-Men Origins & First Class (technically First Class exists within the large reach of Origins)

3. X-Men

4. X2: X-Men United

5. The Last Stand

6. The Wolverine

7. Days of Future Past

 

Okay, so it comes down to this. Wolverine was intercepted by Magneto and a somehow still alive Professor X at the end of The Wolverine. He is told that he is needed and that the war they all feared is here. In the past, Raven/Mystique killed a man named Bolivar Trask, who is responsible for creating the Sentinel program. Yes, the Sentinels were previously seen at the beginning of The Last Stand. Wolverine joins together with Xavier, Magneto, Storm, Kitty Pryde, and Iceman, along with some powerful newcomers to send Wolverine’s consciousness back in time to thwart the murder before it happens and save the timeline of the future. Back in time, he meets up with a younger Professor (James McAvoy, post First Class) and Beast who have their own problems. Young Professor has created a serum that obliterates his mutant powers but allows him to walk again, and also allows Beast to be “normal” looking. There is a lot going on in this film, and it is phenomenal filmmaking that helps to fix a lot of the problems that the previous have created. Overall, I love the story, but it still irks me that there is little to no explanation about Professor X’s survival and rebirth. I’ve seen a lot of info on the internet, but I still don’t feel like that can be considered fact in this series.

I feel like I don’t need to discuss Hugh Jackman’s performance in this film. He knows the character. He holds the record for most performances as a superhero with all seven films featuring him.

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James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender take their characters to new levels in this film. McAvoy’s young Xavier is so broken and destroyed by the direction his life has taken. It is absolutely heartbreaking to watch. Fassbender shows a lot of signs on the way to his metamorphosis into adult Magneto. I think what really elevates these two performances is that these got to work with the originators of the roles for the first time in the series.

Ellen Page turns in a very quick and very well-done performance returning to the series as Kitty Pryde.

One of the scene-stealers here is Peter Dinklage (TV’s Game of Thrones, Knights of Badassdom), who plays Bolivar Trask. This man could’ve been a regular old evil man villain, but Dinklage has transformed him into a man who has motives and faults. This is a true character.

As far as editing goes, this story could’ve been a big mushy mess of timelines, but it is placed very well together with key images to designate exactly where we are. Compare it to the confusing time-jumper Oculus out last year.

I wouldn’t be too surprised if Days of Future Past takes away an Oscar nod for Sound Editing and Sound Mixing, if only for the scenes with Quicksilver.

One thing I do want to know before finishing this review is the possible confusion with Avengers: Age of Ultron, which releases next year. So, Quicksilver is featured in this film. Quicksilver is featured in that film. Let me point out that, from a film standpoint, these are different characters. The two series are separate and exist in separate shared universes. More on this later.

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Anywho, X-Men: Days of Future Past is the best X-Men yet and, personally, the best film I’ve seen yet this year. Have you seen it? What did you think? Is your brain melting from all the stuff? So much stuff!

 

5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For my review of X-Men, click here.

For my review of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, click here.

For my review of X-Men: First Class, click here.

For my review of The Wolverine, click here.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)

My friends, X-Men: Days of Future Past is still pretty fresh in theaters and doing very well. I happened to see it last week and wow. Just wow. It got me thinking…a lot. About comic books. About time travel. About Jennifer Lawrence…

Anywho, I thought now would be a great time to revisit some X-Men films. Where better to start than an origin story?

 

X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)

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Director: Gavin Hood

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, Danny Huston, Dominic Monaghan, Ryan Reynolds

Screenplay: David Benioff, Skip Woods

107 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, and some partial nudity.

After the initial X-Men trilogy came to a close, producers and execs at 20th Century Fox were really scratching their heads. How do they continue a franchise about a team when not all the players want to play? Simple enough. Focus on just one. Who better than Wolverine, right? WRONG. Wolverine is a terrible character to focus two hours on. Simply put, he is just too powerful a character. First of all, unable to die. Okay, so how do we fear for him? It is the same reason why it is so difficult to make a solid Superman film. Too strong. Secondly, we already know his backstory. We learn everything we need to know about Wolverine from X2: X-Men United. We learn about Weapon X, about Stryker, about the whole kit-and-caboodle. SO why? Why follow around Logan for an entire film. It would be easier if we knew or cared about the supporting players, but this whole film is a cadre of mutants who we in the audience a) don’t know, or b) don’t care about. What’s to love here?

I think I’m getting ahead here. The plot. Okay, so X-Men Origins: Wolverine is all about Wolverine (Hugh Jackman returns for his fourth appearance as the clawing mutant). Wolverine before he was Wolverine. It examines his relationship with his brother Victor Creed, also known as Sabretooth (Liev Schreiber, TV’s Ray Donovan, Salt). Now you may be asking yourself “Wait! The guy from the first X-Men is Logan’s brother?” And don’t worry, because it is barely brought up and bares little to no bringing up in the actual story. We get to see Logan get his claws. We get to see Logan kill a helicopter. Easily, the plot of this film is a bunch of set pieces stitched together and designed to get us to X-Men in the most meandering way possible. And it indeed meanders.

Hugh Jackman is the reason for this film. He currently holds a record for most times an actor has portrayed a superhero on the big screen. X-Men: Days of Future Past marks the seventh time he has donned the claws, and I hear that X-Men: Apocalypse as well as a third Wolverine-centric film are on the way. He is Wolverine, so much so that leaving the role is tantamount to killing the unkillable character. Jackman surrounds himself with solid actors that have nothing to do here. Schreiber here is a terrible casting choice, more so than just because he bares no resemblance to the Sabretooth we already know. Danny Huston (21 Grams, Hitchcock) is again a very capable performer, and under a more solid script could do Stryker well, but he just becomes a half-assed villain reduced to little motivation and lots of cheese. Dominic Monaghan (TV’s Lost, The Lord of the Rings trilogy)  joins as Chris Bradley, but he gets two scenes and then is tossed aside in favor of shoving more worthless characters in. And then we get to Ryan Reynolds. Hold up, Reynolds gets his own paragraph…

Okay, are you ready? Let’s begin.

Ryan Reynolds has always loved the character of Deadpool, and really, he is a likable character. The Merc with a Mouth, Deadpool is known for his quips and one-liners, as well as the characteristic of regularly breaking the 4th wall and talking to the reader. So when Reynolds heard that Deadpool would appear in the new X-Men film, he called and asked for the part. What does he get in return? Wade Wilson/Deadpool amounts to little more than a few cameo pop-ins as a character who, get this, are you ready: When he becomes Deadpool, he doesn’t even get to talk! The Merc with a Mouth has his mouth sewn shut! What the Fu-

 

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Sorry. Yeah, sorry about that. It is angersome though, that is for sure.

Let’s talk about some of the other points in this film, because something has to be good.

The cinematography looks like someone hired director Gavin Hood to shoot a cheap music video featuring Hugh Jackman and terrible music. Once you get past the opening credits, which are beautiful, the film just starts to drag. The problem about opening credits, is that when I saw them, I saw the film I wanted to see. Forrest Gump with claws. There is something depressing about being unable to die, yet this was not thought of until the second Wolverine adventure some four years later.

Gavin Hood’s direction is boring and clumsy. It feels like he would have shown up to the theater in the middle of the film to yell out at the audience, “See, this is where he gets the claws! Hey look, it is Stryker, remember him?!?” To be fair, Hood did want to examine Logan’s PTSD at one point, something unheard of in a summer comic book blockbuster until last year’s incredible Iron Man 3.

The CG. My God, the CG. Those claws look bad. Check out the bathroom scene if you get the chance and you’ll see what I mean.

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In closing, screenwriter Benioff of Game of Thrones fame sought out to make an R-Rated Wolverine film that really examined the character’s life. This wasn’t that film, thanks to the studio. This film only wishes to confuse the timeline, and in fact it did, so there’s that for you. I’ll just say this, if you’re a completest as I am, watch the film once and burn the copy after. If you can avoid seeing it, do so. Not having seen this movie will not ruin the movie-going experience of seeing any other X-Men film, trust me.

 

1/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

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