3D Blu-ray Review “The Wolverine: Unleashed Extended Edition”

Actors: Hugh Jackman, Hiroyuki Sanada, Tao Okamoto, Rila Fukushima, Famke Janssen
Directors: James Mangold
Number of discs: 4
Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested) / Unrated
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Release Date: December 3, 2013
Run Time: 126 / 138 minutes

Film: 3.5 out of 5 stars
3D: 4 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3.5 out of 5 stars

When it comes to the “X-Men” film franchise, I have never been the biggest fan, the first three movies are good but not my favorite superhero films. I never even wanted to see “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” and from what I’ve heard I am glad I haven’t. “X-Men: First Class” was visually amazing but also quite forgettable. So I wasn’t too thrilled when “The Wolverine” was announced, but it proved itself to be quite entertaining and very impressive entry into the franchise. I was excited that the film picks up at the end of “X-Men: The Last Stand” and steer away from the whole “Origin” story. Hugh Jackson just kicks as in this role, no question that he IS Wolverine and is simply bad-ass. I have to admit, I am now very excited for what is to come with “X-Men: Days of Future Past” and I also saw that “The Wolverine 2″ was just greenlit this week as well, so plenty more to come.

Official Premise: Jackman returns as The Wolverine and faces his ultimate nemesis in an action-packed, life- or-death battle that takes him to modern-day Japan. Vulnerable for the first time and pushed to his limits, Wolverine confronts not only lethal samurai steel but also his inner struggle against his own immortality; an epic fight that will leave him forever changed.

“The Wolverine: Unleashed Extended Edition” is excited since it is the first time that a film in the “X-Men” series is receiving an extended unrated cut. This version runs about 12 minutes longer than the Theatrical Cut and contains several new scenes. Let me tell you this unrated cut is much much better than the PG-13 cut. There are a few extra F-Bombs and much more CG-gore as well. It is not “Kill Bill” but it definitely has a harder edge to it. The only problem is that the unrated cut is only presented in 2D and not 3D, this is not shocking but also a bit disappointing since like I said I much prefer the new cut.

20th Century Fox has delivered “The Wolverine” as a combo pack with Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + DVD + UltraViolet digital copy. Both of the 1080p transfers with an 2.40:1 aspect ratio are absolutely equally stunning. I happen to prefer the film in 3D even though it was post-converted. It was done so well that the film has a certain arty feel to it and it really makes for a very fun and overall impressive 3D experience. The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround track is no schlep either. It is so intense that it actually woke up daughter up due to the wall-shaking action. No question, this has to be one of the best audio tracks of the year. Very impressive.

In terms of special features this releases do not let you down either. There is a solid commentary track from the director James Mangold. It is well-paced and pretty informative about the production. There is a neat “Second Screen App” available to download through either IOS or Android mobile devices, including smartphones and tablets in order to access additional bonus content. “The Path of a Ronin” is a really solid nearly one-hour behind-the-scenes look into the film with great interviews from cast/crew. There is an Alternate Ending included, as well as the Theatrical Trailer included. Lastly there is a sneak peek at “X-Men: Days of Future Past” with a set tour from the upcoming installment in this franchise..

Rila Fukushima and Tao Okamoto talks about working with Hugh Jackman in “The Wolverine”

Rila Fukushima and Tao Okamoto have a couple things in common. Both are very successful models. And both made their future film debut this past year opposite Hugh Jackman in the highly popular film, “The Wolverine.”

As the film makes its debut this week on DVD and Blu-ray, they both spoke with me about their new success, not being intimidated and what a nice person that guy Logan really is.

Mike Smith: You both are very successful fashion models. Before the opportunity to appear in “The Wolverine” came along had either of you aspired to being an actress?
Rila Fukushima: To be honest I never wanted to become an actress but when I was approached I decided to do it because I was going to be Hugh Jackman’s love interest! (laughs).
Tao Okamoto: I’ve always had an interest in getting into acting but I’d never done any feature films. Doing “The Wolverine” was a magical experience.

MS: Were there any nerves, considering the popularity of the “Wolverine” films, on making this film your debut project?
TO: “The Wolverine” is all about fear (laughs) I was very lucky to get the role.
RF: Luckily I didn’t have a lot of time to realize it was a big deal. The audition process took about four months and before I knew it we were shooting. I’m glad I didn’t have the time to realize it was such a big movie. When I finally saw the finished film it hit me that this was a pretty big deal. (laughs).

MS: Being new to the business was Hugh Jackman supportive of you on set?
RF: Absolutely. I think he still remembers his first experiences on a big movie so he could understand how hard it was. He also taught me the “language”…I had no idea what “on camera” was or what “off camera” was. He was very, very supportive.
TO: Everyone was very supportive. From James Mangold, our director, to Hugh. They both gave me a lot of information about my character. And Hugh is so funny! He’s a superstar but he’s also a really, really nice person. He would be on the set when he was supposed to be sleeping. He would film eleven hours a day and spend three hours before he was supposed to shoot working out. He would spend time with his family and take care of his children. I think he really only slept three hours a day! (laughs) But then again, he’s Wolverine…he doesn’t have to sleep.

MS: You both have some pretty intense action scenes in the film. Did either of you have any prior martial arts experience or training?
TO: A little bit. For the movie I took about three weeks of training in sword fighting. I love to exercise and had been taking taekwondo for about two years before I was cast.
RF: We trained for about a month before we started shooting. I learned Karate, how to throw a knife and self defense.

MS: What do you have coming up?
RF: I’m working on a new project but I can’t tell you until its finished (laughs).
TO: I’m shooting a drama for Japanese television right now and hopefully I can return to an American film in the near future.


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Film Review “The Wolverine”

Starring: Hugh Jackman and Rila Fukushima
Directed by: James Mangold
Rated: PG 13
Running time: 2 hrs 6 mins
20th Century Fox

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

“Wow, *the* Batman – or is it just “Batman”?

As you can see, there is something to be said about the word “the.” In “Batman Returns” it was a way of identifying a hero. On the flip side, that single word drove the Knights That Say “Ni!” into a rabid tizzy. So does the inclusion of “the” make this film better than 2009s “Wolverine?” In a word, yes.

August 9, 1945. In a prisoner of war camp outside of Nagasaki, Japan, we find the man Logan (Jackman) being kept in an underground prison cell. An imminent air attack has frightened the leaders of the camp, causing one of the guards, named Yashida (Ken Yamamura) to set the prisoners free. He frees Logan last then is called to join his fellow guards as they perform hari kari. As Yashida pulls his sword his eye catches a sight across the water that he will never forget. A single plane dropping a single bomb. Suddenly he is picked up and dropped into the cell Logan once occupied. Logan covers Yashida’s body as the city erupts into a giant ball of flame. Six days later, the Great War is over.

Present day. We join Logan as he sleeps. But his sleep is not easy. Visions of his late love, Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) fill his dreams. Dreams that do not end well. One day he is approached by a young woman named Yukio (Fukushima). She has been sent to find Logan by her master, a man that wants to thank him for a great deed. That man is Yashida. Logan consents to fly to Japan, noting that he’ll only be there long enough to say “hello” and “goodbye.” You would think by now he would know better!

Full of kick-butt action and some incredible stunts, “The Wolverine” joins this summer’s “Iron Man 3” and “Man of Steel” as a worthy member of their respective series. As embodied by Jackman, Logan/Wolverine is a decent man who has accepted the fact that he will always be different. When we meet him in the future he is living in the woods outside a rural town. When he goes into town to buy some batteries for his radio the clerk asks him if he, like most of her customers, is a hunter. “Not anymore,” is the reply. But like the creature he is named after, Logan is constantly on the hunt, though at times he doesn’t seem to know what for.

While in Japan we are introduced to a now very old Yashida (Haruhiko Yamanouchi), who acknowledges his debt to Logan and asks him if he had the chance, would he trade his immortality for a normal life. Logan understands the question. Yashida is willing to do what is necessary to gain the power hidden behind inside Logan’s body. But is Logan ready to provide it? That is one of the many problems confronting our adamantium-clawed hero. Others include battles with ninjas, the Yakuza and an eight foot metal warrior. Piece of cake.

Here’s some trivia for you fans: Hugh Jackman was not originally cast as Wolverine in the first “X-men” film. Director Bryan Singer wanted Russell Crowe and settled for Dougray Scott. Scott left the film to join Tom Cruise in “Mission: Impossible 2,” giving the role, and an incredible career, to Jackman. I tell you this because I can’t for the life of me see anyone else playing this character. Jackman IS Logan/Wolverine. He inhibits the role and gives what could easily be a one-dimensional comic book character a soul, albeit a tortured one. On the production side, who knew that James Mangold, the director of films like “Cop Land” and “Walk the Line,” had a comic book movie in him? Like Kenneth Branagh and “Thor” he was a surprising choice but he delivers the goods here in spades. The Japanese locations, both in the city and country, are breathtakingly beautiful. The visual effects are outstanding, including a rooftop fight on the top of a Bullet Train traveling over 300 mile per hour. To call it exhilarating is truly an understatement. If I had to find a problem if would be the time. The film ends with a group of “ninjas” giving Logan and his talents a hard time in what appears to be another film that feels it must present a long and rousing final battle. It isn’t needed here and the film could easily lose 20 minutes and still play as well.

Brian Tee talks about his roles in “Mortal Kombat: Legacy 2” and “The Wolverine”

Brian Tee worked on projects like “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift” and TV like “Grimm” and has a busy year a head of him. He is playing the role of Liu Kang “Mortal Kombat: Legacy 2” and Noburo Mori in “The Wolverine”. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Brian about his roles and what we can expect.

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us about how you ended up taking on the role of Liu Kang “Mortal Kombat: Legacy 2”?
Brian Tee: I heard about “Mortal Kombat: Legacy 2,” while I was shooting “The Wolverine” in Australia. I knew of the Series through one of my best bro’s Ian Anthony Dale. He plays Scorpion in the “Mortal Kombat: Rebirth” Trailer and in Season 1 & 2… he’s a brilliant actor and crushes it as the Scorpion. He’s perfect for the role. So I called him and asked about his experience on the shoot and working with Kevin Tancharoen. He had such high praise and I was already a huge fan of Kev’s work, so I had to be a part of it. BUT, I have to admit, at first I was like “hell no, I won’t play Liu Kang!” to be honest, as a kid popping quarters in the MK video game, I hated playing Liu. He just seemed to me to be a caricature of the stereotypical kung-fu guy. So when the role was brought up, I was the first person to think I wasn’t right for the role… I love playing characters with depth and complexities that at first glance, Liu never had… UNTIL, I read the script and talked to Kevin about it. The script blew me away and completely transformed Liu into something I’d love to sink my teeth into. And as we spoke, Kevin and I were on the same page, with what we wanted and didn’t want Kang to be. So with Kev’s genius vision we created this now anti-Hero character and took Liu to a completely new image and darker place, with the grounded visceral justice that this version of Liu Kang deserves.

MG: How did you prepare to play such an epic and important character?
BT:  Pleasantly surprised, this character really pushed me as an actor in so many ways, both emotionally and physically. Because you’re right, Liu Kang is an already iconic figure, so it’s harder for fans to relate to him. And that was my focus… I worked on connecting to the being, not the figure. I really wanted to delve deep within the soul of the man, not the image of character… Not to get too “actor-e,” I wanted to bring a grounded reality and create the person, not the persona… so that fan’s can connect to him as I did. Physically, I knew there were huge shoes to fill playing this epic character. I know I had to step up my game in order to successfully pull off what I wanted to withLiu, in the series. I was pretty adamant that I wanted to try to do the majority of the stunts the character demanded… but that respect is earned, not given. So I knew I had to prove myself. You don’t just go up to the greatest stunt coordinator in the game, Garrett Warren, and say “yeah, I can do that”… you have to work for it. So with the help of Garrett, the amazing stunt choreography Larnell Stovall created, my stunt double Kim Do training me personally, and along with some of the best stunt guys in the business… I had the good fortune to work my way into the fights, and be worthy enough to do the majority of them… which inevitably helped me embody Liu even more. I’m really proud of the Liu we created… and hope the fans enjoy him as much as I do!

MG: What can we expect from your episode in the web series?
BT:  I am actually in quite a few episodes throughout the series, but I’m really looking forward to episode 1. It’s the first of this season and sets the series off… so there is a lot riding on it. I know there are a lot of expectations from the fans out there considering how awesome Season 1 was. But I got gotta tell ya, I can’t wait for the fans to see whats in store this season. Episode 1 establishes Liu Kang like you have never seen him. I think it will go beyond the expectations they might be used to with Kang… because we completely turn this character upside down. And not to mention, the fight scene is just jaw dropping! This episode moves you in ways fan’s won’t soon forget and I hope will keep them wanting to come back for more!… because that’s just the beginning!

MG: What is your favorite move or fatality for the character?
BT:  My favorite Liu Kang fatality has to be the “double flip kick into the uppercut”… I’m old school.

MG: You’ve done films like “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift” and TV like “Grimm”; how does a web-series compare?
BT: This Web-Series was pretty much shot like a feature film, so in comparison there is no difference. Though it was a much smaller budget compared to other mediums, what Kevin, the cast and crew did with the limitations, is unbelievable. It looks and feels like a major studio feature separated into episodes for the web.

MG: Do you think we will be seeing more of you as Liu Kang, perhaps in the upcoming feature film?
BT: I hope so. Though nothing is set in stone, I think if the fan’s come out to watch the Series, they’ll be the judge.

MG: Tell us about your role Noburo Mori in “The Wolverine”?
BT: Noburo Mori is the character I play in “The Wolverine.” He is a politician that I feel, rides the line between good and evil, and will do whatever it take for political gain… But I guess that’s most politicians. 😉 Without giving too much away, he is arranged to be married to Logan’s love interest, so you can imagine it won’t end pretty. But also… this installment of “The Wolverine” is epic! Fan’s are really going to enjoy James Mangold’s mastery in bringing a side of “The Wolverine” fans have never seen. Along with the unbelievable action at the biggest scale, James has brought new layers and a depth fans will appreciate and relate to. Logan is vulnerable both physically and emotionally, its a war against his own nature and he must finally embrace who he is. It’s actually not to dissimilar to our take on LiuKang… both have demons inside of them that they have to overcome in order to find their true self.

MG: What else do you have in the cards for 2013 and beyond?
BT: Well, I just finished a new TV pilot called “Anatomy of Violence,” starring Skeet Ulrich, Amber Tamblyn and David Harewood, directed by Mark Pellington. Its from the creators of “Homeland,”… which I love, so it was great to work with the creatives and to be a part of this amazing cast and show. I’m also wrapping this incredible art house indie, called “The Beautiful Ones,” starring my good buddy Ross McCall and directed by Jesse V. Johnson. Ross is awesome in it and Jesse’s vision is remarkable. I’m also up for this dark suspense thriller with some legendary actors… fingers crossed. And of course, I’m looking forward to reprising the role of Liu Kang in the feature… but we’ll have to wait and see. In the mean, I’m pumped for the “Mortal Kombat: Legacy 2” Web-Series to come out and see the response of the fans!… maybe they’ll decide.


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DVD Review “Marvel Anime: Wolverine – Complete Series”

Starring: Milo Ventimiglia
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Distributed by: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Release Date: July 31, 2012
Running Time: 284 minutes

Series: 2.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3 out of 5 stars

When it comes to Japanese anime version of Marvel characters, how can you go wrong. If you have seen the previously released series for “X-Men” and “Iron Man”, you would know what I mean…or at least with “X-Men”. Like “Iron Man”, I was not a big fan of the “Wolverine” series. When I come to think of it though, I have never been a big fan of the character Wolverine, especially not in any of the X-Men live action movies. If you want to see a great Marvel Anime series be sure to check out “X-Men” and “Blade” series, unless you are a die-hard Wolverine fan.

This aspect of this series that I enjoyed most was the homage to Frank Miller’s Wolverine graphic novel from the 1980’s. When Mariko, the love for Logan aka Wolverine for you newbs, is forced back to Japan by her crime-lord father, Shingen…Logan vows to get her back at any cost. He enters the world of corruption and violence and teams up with young assassin, Yukio in order to battle their way through the Japanese criminal underworld. Keep an eye out for some known faces like Omega Red and Cyclops.

Milo Ventimiglia scowls as his voices the titanium filled character and does a decent job. I prefer the Japanese audio if anything since maybe it makes the anime-style series seem more true. The special features included on this DVD are also pretty decent including three featurettes. “Marvel Anime Universe: Wolverine Reborn” dives into the creation of the series. “The Ferocious Anti-Hero: Wolverine Defined” focuses on our main character. Lastly “Wolverine Meets X-Men” is an interview with creator of the series.