At the Movies

Ben Rothstein/20th Century Fox/Associated Press

Svetlana Khodchenkova as Viper and Hugh Jackman as Logan are expected to boost “The Wolverine” to box office gold when it opens this weekend.

New in Theaters

The Wolverine. (In standard format and digital 3-D with surcharge. Playing at the Durango Stadium 9.)

Don’t get us wrong. We don’t mean to take anything away from the more substantial qualities of “The Wolverine,” a fairly satisfying if not stellar installment in the saga of the famous mutant that Hugh Jackman’s been playing since, wow, 2000. (For a little perspective, Bill Clinton was still president.)

But let’s just point out that Jackman bares it all in a brief but memorable scene in a bathtub, and the studio would be wise to advertise this scene as much as possible. Because Wolverine is all about Jackman, and not only is the actor in amazing shape, but he’s funny in the scene, too. So why not flaunt it?

Jackman’s been in good movies and not-as-good movies, but one thing he’s never lacked is charisma. Whether hoofing it in a Broadway musical or crooning as Jean Valjean in “Les Miserables,” that charisma makes him always worth watching. And so, whether you’re an X-Men fan or not, it’s Jackman that makes “The Wolverine” worth watching, too.

Oh yes, the movie. Well, as we mentioned, it’s fairly satisfying. On the plus side, we get to know the Wolverine, aka Logan, a little better. We also see him physically challenged, losing some of his mutant healing powers, which gives Jackman a nice chance to display weakness.

There are also some welcome funny moments in the script, many having to do with its Japan setting. When Logan and a young woman he’s protecting want to hide, they enter a Japanese “love hotel” where, they’re informed, their room options are: dungeon, nurse’s office, or Mission to Mars. (They pick the latter). Also pay attention to Logan’s great comeback after throwing a bad guy out a window into a swimming pool.

And director James Mangold sets one terrific action scene – the film’s best – on a speeding bullet train, making great use of those bone claws.

On the minus side are some lackluster performances and an ending that, sorry to say, is simply not that exciting, or maybe we’ve all just run out of steam by then.

The film, Jackman’s sixth outing as Logan, finds him hiding out in the woods of the Yukon, his best friend a grizzly bear. He runs into Yukio (an appealing Rila Fukushima), who tells him he’s needed in Japan.

There, Logan is brought to the dying tycoon Harada, who apparently wants to say goodbye. As we see in a flashback, Logan had saved Harada from the Nagasaki atomic bombing. Actually, Harada wants to transfer Logan’s healing powers and immortality to himself. Logan doesn’t like the plan.

Before escaping, though, he attends Harada’s funeral, and finds himself fighting off mob thugs seeking to kidnap the man’s granddaughter, Mariko. Wounded, he manages to escape with Mariko onto a bullet train, where that great fight scene unfolds up on the roof.

Some quiet scenes follow, giving Jackman a chance to display a winning vulnerability. He makes us worry about Logan in a way we never did before.

If his character has some depth, the same can’t be said for all the supporting players. Svetlana Khodchenkova, as Viper, is supposed to be villainous but comes across as only vampy; she recalls Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy in “Batman & Robin,” only less interesting. Tao Yokamoto is attractive and sweet as Mariko. Famke Janssen appears as Logan’s dead love, Jean Grey, in ghostly scenes that are a bit silly.

But really it’s about Jackman. At this point he could play the role in his sleep – but he doesn’t, and the nuances he and director Mangold bring to the character lift this enterprise up from the usual blockbuster-sequel fare.

Oh, and check out that bathtub scene.

“The Wolverine,” a 20th Century Fox release in 3D, is rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, some sexuality and language. Running time: 126 minutes. HH½ out of four.

JOCELYN NOVECK,AP National Writer

Still Showing

Durango Stadium 9

(Next to Durango Mall, 247-9799, www.allentheatresinc.com)

The Lesser Blessed. (Wednesday only.) A breakout hit at the Toronto Film Festival, this is a look at teen life in the 21st century. “The Breakfast Club” it ain’t. Rated R.

R.I.P.D. (In standard format and digital 3-D with surcharge.) Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds play cops in the afterworld who protect the living from souls who aren’t willing to exit the Earthly realm quietly. Rated PG-13.

The Conjuring. A couple who specializes in de-haunting houses bite off more they can chew when they take on the demons possessing a rural farmhouse. Rated R.

Pacific Rim. (In standard format and digital 3-D with surcharge.) Just a few years into the future, Guillermo Del Toro would have us believe that we’ll be operating 25-story killer robots to save humanity from monsters or robots or some hybrid of the two. Rated PG-13.

Grown Ups 2. If you hated “Grown Ups,” just wait ’til you see “Grown Ups 2.” Rated PG-13.

Turbo. (In standard format and digital 3-D with surcharge.) Some animated thing about a snail who gets into the racing circuit and wants to go to the Indy 500 but who really cares anyway...Rated PG.

Despicable Me 2. (In standard format and digital 3-D with surcharge.) The Steve Carell-voiced Gru completes the transformation from supervillain to good guy when he’s recruited by the Anti-Villain League. Rated PG.

The Lone Ranger. Johnny Depp is Tonto, who tells the tale of how mild-mannered John Reid (Armie Hammer) became the famous masked man. Rated PG-13.

The Heat. Melissa McCarthy can make anyone – even Sandra Bullock – look funny and the R rating is icing on the cake. Rated R.

Back Space Theatre

(1120 Main Ave., 259-7940, www.thebackspacetheatre.org)

The Reluctant Fundamentalist. A Pakistani man graduates Princeton and looks forward to pursuing the American dream with his American fiancee (Kate Hudson). Then 9/11 happens, and 10 years of prejudice and mistrust drive him back to homeland and some un-American thinking. Rated R.

Gaslight Cinema

(102 Fifth St. Next to the railroad depot, 247-8133, www.allentheatresinc.com)

Red 2. In one of the more unnecessary sequels we’ve seen, a bunch of has-beens try again to relive the past glory they tried to relive in “Reds.” Rated PG-13.

The Lone Ranger. See above. Rated PG-13.

Ted Holteen and Associated Press

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