UK Cinema Releases: Friday 1st May 2009

UK Cinema Releases 01-05-09


X-Men Origins: Wolverine (20th Century Fox): A prequel to the X-Men films which traces the back story to Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and his involvement in the Weapon X program. Directed by Gavin Hood (who made Tsotsi and Rendition) it co-stars Liev Schreiber, Danny Huston and Lynn Collins, but for various reasons is something of a mess. Despite the film’s problems, Fox will expect a huge worldwide opening although it may tail off when bad word of mouth spreads and Star Trek opens next week. [Vue West End & Nationwide / Cert 12A]

Hannah Montana The Movie (Walt Disney): The film adaptation of the teen sitcom Hannah Montana stars Miley Cyrus as Miley Stewart (and her alter-ego Hannah Montana) who’s life is becoming out of control, to the point where her dad, Robby Stewart (Billy Ray Cyrus) takes her back home to Tennessee. Disney can expect the tweens to lap this up although questions may be asked if counter-programming it against Wolverine was the right move. [Vue West End & Nationwide / Cert U]

Ghosts Of Girlfriends Past (Entertainment): A romantic comedy that offers a new take on Charles Dickens‘ A Christmas Carol which sees Matthew McConaughey play a womaniser haunted by past girlfriends. Directed by Mark Waters, it stars Emma Stone and Jennifer Garner. More counter-programming against Wolverine, Entertainment can expect female audiences to be interested but the lack of awareness for this film seems ominous for its long-term box office. [Vue West End & Nationwide / Cert 12A]



Is Anybody There? (Optimum Releasing): A British drama about a young boy (Bill Milner) who lives at an old people’s home run by his parents (David Morrissey and Anne-Marie Duff), who strikes up a friendship with an elderly magician (Michael Caine). [Clapham P’House, Curzon Mayfair, Screen on Baker Street & Nationwide / Cert 12A]

Funuke: Show Some Love, You Losers! (Third Window Films): Japanese film about the relationship between three siblings after their patents die in a road accident. [ICA Cinema / Cert 15]

Helen (New Wave Films): The story of a young woman poised on the brink of adult life directed by Christine Molloy and Joe Lawlor. [Apollo Piccadilly Circus, Curzon Soho & Key Cities / Cert PG]

The End (Kaleidoscope Entertainment): A documentary by Nicola Collins about East End gangsters. [London & Key Cities]

Kal Kisne Dekha (Adlabs Films): A Bollywood film directed by Vivek Sharma and starring newcomers Jackky Bhagnani and Vaishali Desai. [C’Worlds Feltham, Ilford, Wandsworth, Wood Green & selected Key Cities]


Our latest DVD picks (W/C Monday 27th April)

Cinema Thoughts

X-Men Problems: Wolverine

Wolverine cast

The idea of a prequel to the X-Men films made nine years after the original was always a shaky one and X-Men Origins: Wolverine has a lot of problems.

For those of you not familiar with the universe of these films, they are live action adaptations of the Marvel comics which feature mutants (that is humans with special powers). 

The first two – X-Men (2000) and X-Men 2 (2003) – were directed by Bryan Singer and were really rather good, with an array of interesting characters, exciting action sequences and ideas you don’t normally get in comic book movies. 

The third film in 2006 sadly let the team down as Singer had chosen to direct Superman Returns and Brett Ratner was given the gig.

However, the undoubted star of this hugely successful franchise was Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, the snarly mutant with an ability to heal himself, an unbreakable skeleton and claws that shoot out of his fists.

You may have forgotten that he only got the role at the last minute because Dougray Scott injured himself during Mission Impossible 2 and shooting delays meant he couldn’t do the film.

Hugh took his place and a movie star was born as he was great in the role and connected with a lot of fans and the general public at large.

However, with nearly all successful franchises the decline in quality starts to kick in around the third film and the fact that Fox wanted to make an X-Men spin-off one of their summer tentpoles suggests that things are a little desperate.

I can’t think of a spin-off movie that has been successful and given that Marvel’s recent attempts in this arena includes the awful Elektra, things didn’t bode well.

But the reason Wolverine (let’s just call it that from now on) doesn’t work is two-fold: the central concept doesn’t work and it is executed poorly.

The plot is essentially the back-story of the Wolverine character and his time with Team X, before getting his adamantium skeleton.

If you remember Brian Cox’s character from X-Men 2, this is essentially the story of the flashbacks from that film. 

And here lies the problem, because we have to get to grips with the fact that an older Jackman is playing a younger Wolverine.

Now, this shouldn’t matter because – as fans will no doubt remind you – his character doesn’t age due to his regenerative powers.

Only, it does matter because the whole film is set in the 1970s and (presumably) 1980s and hardly any concession is made to these in terms of period detail.

There is an interesting title sequence (referenced in the trailer) that plays around with the idea of Wolverine and his brother Victor (Liev Schrieber) fighting in battle throughout history but the rest of the film kind of shirks the time issue.

But worse than this is the fact the Gavin Hood is clearly the wrong director for this sort of material.

Although his Oscar-winning Tsotsi won the Best Foreign Film Oscar and got him the attention of studios, he really doesn’t have the chops for this kind of film.

Some people may overlook the challenges of big-budget productions and assume directors for these are interchangeable but it does take a certain set of skills to mix story, character and visuals into an exciting mix.

Hood was reportedly the choice of Jackman, who is a producer on the film, and he seems caught between doing a character piece and a straightforward superhero film.

Unfortunately the story is hamstrung by the inevitability of where it is going, but more importantly it suffers from undercooked ideas, flabby pacing and action sequences that never come alive.

In addition, the visual effects are disappointing for a film of this budget and scale. There are times when the match between live action and CGI is poor and this really matters when it gets to the big sequences like the climax.

Another striking fault is the waste of a really fine supporting cast as Schrieber, Danny Huston and Lynn Collins are all excellent actors given wafer thin roles.

The new mutant characters are also pretty poor – you know you have problems when one of them is a teleporting (!) and another is basically a large fat guy.  

All of this is a shame because Jackman is still engaging as Wolverine but the wit and charm have been toned down from the earlier X-Men films and despite a darker story, never really goes to a more interesting place.

Much of the buzz on this film throughout the production has been negative with reports of Fox and Hood at loggerheads during the shoot and it culminated in a leak of a full length workprint on the internet a few weeks ago. 

Beacuse it is the first summer blockbuster with a multi-million dollar marketing campaign, it is almost guarenteed a huge opening, but I’d be surprised if it doesn’t drop off fairly quickly when Star Trek hits theaters the following week.

If this is indeed the case, Fox may claim piracy had an effect on box office but the convenience of that excuse hides the more telling reality that this film is the reheated remanants of former glories.

Wolverine at the IMDb
> More on the X-Men series at Wikipedia
> Reviews of the film at Metacritic

News Technology

Wolverine leaks on to the web

Wolverine Piracy

A decent work print of Wolverine has been leaked and is now doing the rounds on various file sharing sites.

For those not familiar with the film, it is a prequel to the X-Men trilogy, focusing on the mutant Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), is directed by Gavin Hood and due for worldwide release on May 1st.

Part of me thought that this was some kind of April Fool’s Joke but if you go to one of the most (in)famous torrent sites – you know, the one from Sweden – then you will see that the most popular torrent is indeed the new X-Men prequel.

Here is a screen grab of what happens when you do a search:


Drew McWeeny at Hitfix reports:

20th Century Fox is about to have an interesting practical test on one of their biggest summer films. 

 “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” leaked online today in what appears to be a near-finished DVD quality rip, marred only by a few unfinished FX shots. 

As soon as files go up, they’re coming right back down as Fox legal chases pirates around the web, but that toothpaste is out of the tube, gentlemen.   

He also got this statement from 20th Century Fox:

“Last night, a stolen, incomplete and early version of X-Men Origins: Wolverine was posted illegally on a website.

It was without many effects, had missing and unedited scenes and temporary sound and music.

We immediately contacted the appropriate legal authorities and had it removed.

We forensically mark our content so we can identify sources that make it available or download it.

The source of the initial leak and any subsequent postings will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law – the courts have handed down significant criminal sentences for such acts in the past.

The FBI and the MPAA also are actively investigating this crime.

We are encouraged by the support of fansites condemning this illegal posting and pointing out that such theft undermines the enormous efforts of the filmmakers and actors, and above all, hurts the fans of the film.”

There is no doubt that this is a big deal. 

Although there have been leaks before on films like Hostel 2 and Sicko, whilst those films opened at cinemas, I can’t really remember a summer blockbuster leaking like this online. 

One can only assume that it came from someone who had access to a digital copy of the whole film.

Someone at an organisation involved in post production? Maybe a disgruntled employee somewhere in the production food chain? Perhaps a superhacker who got access to a secure FTP site?

Given the high profile nature of the production I imagine Tom Rothman and Jim Gianopulos will be paying a lot of time and money to get to the bottom of it.

Obviously, it is an embarrassing security issue for a major studio on a tent-pole production but they will also be concerned about how it impacts the opening box office.

I may be wrong, but I don’t think it will have as much of an impact as some think.

For a film like this, with millions spent on marketing before it opens on thousands of screens around the globe, a big opening is essentially guarenteed.

DVD screeners of Oscar season movies have been pirated for several years now and the box office impact of that is debatable.

However, this episode certainly gives Fox a good excuse if Wolverine doesn’t have a good opening.

But what if it doesn’t? What exactly does a high profile torrent leak actually mean in practical terms? And can we really reach a conclusion based on one film? 

My gut feeling is that torrent sites are a bit too fiddly and complicated for the mass online audience. 

But then again, maybe it will have an impact.

Time will tell.

> Wolverine at the IMDb
> More about filesharing and the X-Men series at Wikipedia
> A wacky conspiracy theory over at Hollywood Elsewhere


Trailer: X-Men Origins: Wolverine

X-Men Origins: Wolverine is out on May 1st 2009

> Official site
> IMDb entry