Tag Archives: Hugh Jackman

Hugh Jackman talks fish, blood and his new show

Before Hugh Jackman could appear in his current Broadway play, “The River,” he had to learn his lines, dig deep into his character and do something he’s never done before: gut a fish.

His character is a fisherman who in one scene pulls out a real 3-pound sea trout, cuts it open with a fearsome-looking knife, removes the internal organs, chops a fennel bulb, slips lemon slices into the skin and seasons the flesh before popping the dish in a fake oven.

It’s a mesmerizing scene and Jackman — a man who plays a sharp-clawed Wolverine in the movies — seems completely at ease as he unhurriedly prepares the fish like a Food Network veteran.

He wasn’t always so calm.

“I was originally a little nervous about it,” said Jackman over lunch in Manhattan. “I’d never done it before and I knew it had to look like he’d been doing it his whole life.”

So Jackman did what any actor worth his salt does: He consulted chefs and practiced. He originally planned to gut a fish every day for months until it became second nature, but he was told the better route was to gut 40 in a single, fishy session.

He got out his knives and made fish fillets and fish sticks and fish soup. “There are fish cakes still frozen in my freezer,” he said, laughing. “No one’s having fish at my house for a long time.”

The scene comes in the middle of Jez Butterworth’s enigmatic play about love and repetition. Various women from the fisherman’s past enter and leave his remote fishing cabin, warping time and space.

“I think the more poetically you take the piece, and less literally you take the piece, the deeper you go with it,” Jackman said. “Ultimately, I think it’s a play that just spoke to me and my heart. I read it and I was like, ‘Wow. There’s something very true and real and honest about connection, about loss, about the search in life.’ That’s something that I’ve always had.”

Jackman, who plays the pirate Blackbeard in next year’s “Pan” and said he’s close to starring in an original movie musical about P.T. Barnum, threw himself into the new play. He spoke to memory experts and read works by psychotherapist Carl Jung.

To nail the fish dish preparation scene, Jackman also consulted with a master — chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, where he has chosen to eat on this afternoon. But Jackman has turned down the lobster tartine and caramelized foie gras for a more modest lunch of raw avocado, toast, peanut butter and marmalade.

“Perfect,” he said when his plate arrives. “I really love going to a three-star Michelin restaurant and they say, ‘You really must try the marmalade with your peanut butter.’”

“The River,” at Circle in the Square Theatre, has been a sellout, in part to Jackman’s star power. But even with his comfort in front of an audience, the fish-gutting scene didn’t go too smoothly when he first performed it, despite all the practice.

“I’ll admit: The first time I did it, I remember thinking, ‘My heart rate is about 75 beats a minute,’” said Jackman. Things got worse when he cut off the end of his thumb.

“It was not much but it was enough of a cut and it bled the entire play. I didn’t realize it was that bad. I thought it would stop,” he said. He could hear the audience murmur about it. “It was not my finest moment.”

There were pools of Jackman’s blood all over the set and the onstage carpet had to be pulled up and cleaned. “I’m a little slower now but now I’ve really got it. Now I’m really enjoying it,” he said.

He’d better: Jackman is eating fish eight times a week as part of the show. The raw trout he’s prepared is quietly swapped out for a roasted one, prepared for each performance from the nearby Emmett O’Lunney’s Irish Pub.

Jackman, who also washes his hands and kitchen tools in a working water spigot onstage, had wanted to cook his fish each time, but it turns out it’s illegal to have a working oven onstage.

Instead, he now bites into the catered fish at each show — and adores it, insisting it doesn’t get old.

“Actors love that: free food,” he said. “That never leaves you.”

On Broadway: Season features Sting, Mirren, Jackman and Peter Pan

The coming Broadway season has something for everyone – a musical by Sting, a magician-filled SUV, the incomparable Hugh Jackman, the equally regal Helen Mirren, a musical set in a funeral parlor and not one, but two Gyllenhaals. Here’s a look at some highlights of the 2014-15 season:

STARS, STARS, STARS

You want A-listers? Broadway listened. Bradley Cooper, Michael Cera, Hugh Jackman, Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal, Ewan McGregor, Glenn Close, Gretchen Mol, Kristin Chenoweth, Helen Mirren, James Earl Jones, Matthew Broderick, Tavi Gevinson, Nathan Lane, Rose Byrne, Alan Alda, Brian Dennehy, Mia Farrow, Candice Bergen, Cynthia Nixon, Kristin Chenoweth, Carol Burnett, Anjelica Huston and Tony Danza.

REVIVE, REVIVE

It wouldn’t be a new Broadway season without some revivals: “Side Show” returns for a second time; Tom Stoppard’s “The Real Thing” for a third time in October; Edward Albee’s “A Delicate Balance” for a third time in the fall; “The Elephant Man” for third time starting in November; and the screwball comedy “Noises Off” for a third time next winter.

OLD SCHOOL

Producers have dug deep into America’s past to pull out four classic tales: The play “You Can’t Take It With You,” by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart, which first debuted in 1936, comes back in September; the 1944 show “On the Town,” with music by Leonard Bernstein and book and lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, returns in October; “An American in Paris,” an adaptation of the 1951 Gene Kelly film, comes in spring; and another Comden-Green comedy, “On the Twentieth Century,” steams into town in February.

YOU HAD US AT HUGH

Hugh Jackman is coming back this fall in “The River” by Jez Butterworth, but does it really matter what he’s doing? For the record, the play, the first since Butterworth’s “Jerusalem,” is about a trout fisherman in a remote cabin who is visited by two of the women in his life. It’s new and moody but Jackman is box-office catnip – his one-man show in 2011 routinely sold out, as did “The Boy From Oz” in 2003 and “A Steady Rain” with Daniel Craig in 2009.

ROYALTY RULES

Helen Mirren will be playing British Queen Elizabeth II this spring in “The Audience,” which imagines the private weekly meetings between the monarch and 12 prime ministers, while Kelli O’Hara and Ken Watanabe will be romancing each other starting in March in the Richard Rodgers-Oscar Hammerstein II musical “The King and I.”

BROWN ROUND 2

Three-time Tony Award-winning composer Jason Robert Brown will seek redemption this winter with his musical of “Honeymoon in Vegas.” Brown’s last show, the lush and romantic “The Bridges of Madison County” closed in May after just 137 performances. Brown’s luck on Broadway has been pretty awful, with “Parade,” “Urban Cowboy” and “13” each not lasting long.

A TORCH PASSES

Kenneth Lonergan’s play “This Is Our Youth” debuted off-Broadway in 1996 and has over the years featured such high-profile actors as Mark Ruffalo, Josh Hamilton, Matt Damon, Colin Hanks, Chris Klein, Jake Gyllenhaal and Anna Paquin. Now it’s time for Michael Cera, Kieran Culkin and Tavi Gevinson, all three making their Broadway debuts.

WE KNOW YOU GUYS

Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick will be together again on Broadway in a revival of Terrence McNally’s “It’s Only a Play.” The duo last appeared together in “The Odd Couple” and famously before that in a little show called “The Producers.” In the updated version of “It’s Only a Play,” Broderick plays an anxious writer, and Lane is stage actor-turned-TV-star best friend.

NO RABBIT PULLING

Seven magicians – including an anti-conjurer, a futurist, an escapologist and an inventor – take the stage for “The Illusionists – Witness the Impossible.” They’re going to hang upside-down, pull gross things from their throats and use swords in creative ways. Critics might be scared to give them a thumbs-down.

INVENTIVE STORYTELLING

Two shows promise sparks from challenging material: The London import “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” based on an adaptation of Mark Haddon’s best-selling novel about a teenager with Asperger’s syndrome who tries to find a dog’s killer, and “Fun Home,” a musical adapted from Alison Bechdel’s memoir about growing up in a funeral home with a closeted gay dad.

2 PETER PANS

There’s no reason to grow up this season: “Finding Neverland,” a musical led by Diane Paulus explores the Peter Pan book’s back story and Allison Williams stars as the iconic title character in NBC’s Dec. 4 telecast of “Peter Pan Live!” the heavily anticipated follow-up to “The Sound of Music.”

TWO GYLLENHAALS

Maggie Gyllenhaal will make her Broadway debut starring opposite Ewan McGregor in “The Real Thing” starting in October, while her brother, Jake, will also make his Broadway bow in Nick Payne’s play “Constellations” beginning in December. Those who love Gyllenhaals might be able to see both in the same day.

TWO BY TWO BY TWO BY…

Producers of A.R. Gurney’s romantic play “Love Letters” seem to have found a way to get you to see the show over and over: they’ve stacked it with changing pairs of stars. Brian Dennehy and Mia Farrow start out in September, then Carol Burnett and Dennehy, then Alan Alda and Candice Bergen, then Stacy Keach and Diana Rigg, and finally Anjelica Huston and Martin Sheen.

NO QUIET PARTY

A polite dinner party spirals out of control in Ayad Akhtar’s “Disgraced,” which hits Broadway in September having already won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for drama. It will star Hari Dhillon, who played the Muslim-American lawyer at the heart of the play in London. Akhtar, the author of “American Dervish,” is one of theater’s most vibrant, exciting young writers.

ROCKER IN THE HOUSE

Sting, a 16-time Grammy Award winner and former lead singer of The Police, has written the music for “The Last Ship,” with a story by both “Red” playwright John Logan and “Next to Normal” writer Brian Yorkey. The musical is inspired by Sting’s memories of growing up in northeast England.

OFF-BROADWAY HIGHLIGHTS

Nathan Lane and Brian Dennehy both will come off-Broadway to co-star in Eugene O’Neill’s “The Iceman Cometh” at the Brooklyn Academy of Music starting in February. And “In the Heights” composer-lyricist Lin-Manuel Miranda will premiere a hip-hop retelling of the life and death of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton at The Public Theater in January.

Entertainment round-up for Feb. 20 | From Smithsonian exhibit of ‘cool’ to winner of Milwaukee public art installation


National

Smithsonian exhibit traces the meaning of ‘cool’

A new exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery examines how the idea of “cool” permeates American culture. On display are 100 photographs of people who defined cool as a word for rebellion, self-expression, charisma, edge and mystery. The 100 who made the cut, trimmed down from a list of 500 names, include musicians, actors, athletes, comedians, activists and writers. At the origins of cool, a term originally born in 1940s era jazz culture, are entertainers such as Fred Astaire and Billie Holiday. The “granddaddies of cool” include Walt Whitman and Frederick Douglass. More recent examples of cool include Marlon Brando and Madonna, counterculture rebels Bob Dylan and Andy Warhol and present-day torchbearers Jay-Z and Jon Stewart.

The exhibit runs in Washington, D.C. through Sept. 7.

HLN hopes to rebrand as TV for the social media generation

CNN spin-off HLN has embarked on plans to reformat its programming as a TV gathering place for social media users. In a departure from its current format, a traditional talk-TV channel, HLN will curate news, trending topics and viral content from all media platforms. The first salvo will be the syndicated Right This Minute, an hourlong show that spotlights emerging Web videos that will air at 10 p.m. Eastern time. The network will subsequently begin incorporating this social media format into existing programs, including Morning Express, News Now, Nancy Grace and Dr. Drew on Call.

Hugh Jackman to host Tony Awards

Producers of the annual telecast celebrating the best of Broadway announced Feb. 11 that Hugh Jackman will serve as the host for the 68th Tony Awards on June 8 at Radio City Music Hall. This will mark Jackman’s fourth time hosting the event. The ceremony will honor plays and musicals that open on Broadway before April 24, with nominations to be announced on April 29.

Last year’s host, Neil Patrick Harris, will be onstage this spring starring in a new production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch.

Biden books ‘Late Night’ debut

Seth Meyers has scored a powerful guest for his first episode of Late Night: Vice President Joe Biden. The vice president’s office announced Biden will be one of Meyers’ guests on the Feb. 24 premiere. A Saturday Night Live alumnus, Meyers is taking over the show from Jimmy Fallon, the new host of NBC’s The Tonight Show. Fallon has executive guest of his own for his first week — first lady Michelle Obama, who will appear on Feb. 20.

Game over for ‘Flappy Bird’

The viral game sensation “Flappy Bird” vanished from the App Store and Google Play this month after its young Vietnamese creator said it had “ruined his life.” The mobile game, a simple yet maddening challenge that tested players to fly a tiny bird through an obstacle course of pipes, was downloaded more than 50 million times from Apple’s App Store. Creator Nguyen Ha Dong told tech website The Verge that the game was making $50,000 a day in advertising revenue. Several blogs speculated that the game’s deletion stemmed either from allegations that fake accounts had boosted the game’s popularity or the original game breached another gamemaker’s copyright. Dong denied the latter allegation on Twitter.

Users who had downloaded the game can continue playing it on their devices, but its removal from Apple and Android stores means new players will not be able to join the fun.

Lady Gaga shoots video at Hearst Castle

The famous Hearst Castle on the California coast has become a film site for Lady Gaga’s latest big-budget music video. According to the San Luis Obispo Tribune, filming was taking place at the castle’s indoor blue-and-gold tiled Roman Pool and the outdoor Neptune Pool. Shoots at the castle, a historical landmark constructed for the newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, are rare, as the site is now more commonly visited by tourists. Gaga donated $250,000 to the Hearst Castle Foundation and underwrote a $25,000 water supply study prior to filming. She also will make a public service announcement for water conservation and a short feature on the castle.

Which song from her ARTPOP is getting the Gaga video treatment is still unclear, although it is likely to be “Gypsy.”

Local

NEWaukee and ART Milwaukee merge

Milwaukee’s young professional organization NEWaukee and arts development group ART Milwaukee announced earlier this month that they will be combining into one organization and retiring the ART Milwaukee brand. The change is largely cosmetic, as ART Milwaukee was originally an offshoot of NEWaukee and the groups shared several staff members. According to the ART Milwaukee website, the merger will allow “ART Milwaukee’s initiatives and the opportunities for Milwaukee’s creative class (to) grow exponentially.”

The merger officially took place at NEWaukee’s fifth birthday party on Feb. 13.

Rep gets NEA Grant to support ‘History of Invulnerability’

The Milwaukee Rep is among the 895 nonprofit organizations awarded an Art Works grant by the National Endowment for the Arts.

The Rep’s $20,000 grant supports its upcoming production of The History of Invulnerability, a play about Jerry Siegel, the man who invented Superman. The production will mark only the third in the play’s history, and the Rep will use the grant to fund state-of-the-art projection systems to enhance the experience. 

“The artistic and technical challenges of this production demand an added level of financial support, so (the NEA’s) grant will enhance the onstage experience significantly,” said managing director Chad Bauman.

The NEA provided $23.4 million in Art Works grant funding this year.

Ex Fabula names Megan McGee first executive director

Ex Fabula, the Milwaukee-based nonprofit committed to strengthening community bonds through the art of storytelling, announced Feb. 12 that co-founder Megan McGee would become the group’s first executive director.

McGee was an instrumental part in helping Ex Fabula grow over the past five years from a small collaboration of local theater and storytelling enthusiasts to a community staple that now hosts monthly storytelling events, a regular iTunes podcast, a community radio show on WMSE and storytelling workshops.

McGee is known locally for her work as a member of the sketch comedy group Broadminded and for involvement with the theater community.

Milwaukee artist Ray Chi selected for East Side Library commission

The Milwaukee Public Library announced on Feb. 7 that multimedia artist Ray Chi would be awarded the commission for a public art installation at the library’s new East Branch, still under construction at 1910 E. North Ave.

Chi’s work will take the form of three “interventions” — described as “rack, serpent, and boulder” — that will transform three elements of the urban landscape: a bike rack, a winding patch of grass and the concrete walkway.

Chi, an associate lecturer at UWM, has lived in the city for 16 years, and recently received a 2013 Nohl Fellowship grant.

His proposal was the community favorite, according to a survey conducted by MPL.

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Skylight succeeds with a personalized ‘Les Miz’

Les Misérables isn’t exactly traditional holiday fare. But Skylight Music Theatre’s production, which opened Nov. 22, is a true holiday gift — a thrilling night of musical theater.

Few musicals equal Les Miz in blending a strong storyline, a soaring musical score and a compelling cast of characters. No wonder the musical’s return to Broadway in March is being so eagerly anticipated by fans. An astonishing 65 million people worldwide have already seen a stage production of Les Miz, and millions more have seen the film version starring Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway.

Set in 19th-century France during a time of revolution, the story is based on Victor Hugo’s novel of the same name. It follows the journey of Jean Valjean, a paroled convict who served 19 years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread. Upon his release, Valjean is rejected by all except a kind clergyman. The clergyman’s singular kindness makes such a strong impression on Valjean that he is transformed. He vows to spend his life correcting injustice. 

He has his work cut out for him, as there is injustice aplenty in Les Miserables. The young mother Fantine has been abandoned by her lover and must work to pay another family to care for her daughter. Then she’s fired by a factory manager after spurning his sexual advances. On her deathbed, Fantine pours out her heart to Valjean, who has by now become the successful owner of the factory in which she toiled. She fears for her daughter’s future, and Valjean vows to find and raise the girl.

But hot on Valjean’s heels is the police officer Javert, who will spend the rest of his life attempting to put Valjean back behind bars. 

Also part of the plot is a group of young men who vow to liberate Paris from what they see as a corrupt government. Their stirring commitment to freedom is brilliantly realized under director Marie Rhode’s direction. The young fighters literally create a barricade before the audience’s eyes as they deliver a rousing rendition of the anthemic “The People’s Song.” 

Rhode deserves credit for taking Les Miserables to a personal level. Her production depends more on character development than on splashy scenery. She dresses her cast in bland, sand-colored outfits. As the cast sings its way through the opening number “At the End of the Day,” some actors don military uniforms while others put on prison outfits. This makes for a seamless transition to the scene in which Javert first confronts Valjean in the prison yard. 

The cast is uniformly superb, led by Luke Grooms as the escaped convict Jean Valjean, and Andrew Varela as his pursuer Javert. A polished, operatic tenor, Grooms easily masters the challenging score. He is a big man whose physical presence matches his importance to the story. He can lead the production numbers with his booming voice, but he can also sing sweetly and tenderly when offering a prayer.

Equally impressive is Varela. His strong baritone lends Javert his authority. Varela’s every movement is spot-on as well, probably due to his prior engagement as Valjean in Broadway’s Les Miz. He’s also played Javert before — in the 25th-anniversary tour of Les Miz.

Despite her hideous, Goldilocks-style blond wig, Susan Spencer as Fantine does a fine job of delivering the musical’s best-known song, “I Dreamed a Dream.” Melissa Fife shows off a spectacular voice as Eponine. Her unrequited love for the dashing Marius (played by a very good-looking Kevin Massey) is given more prominence than usual in this production. This makes her plight, as well as her death scene in Marius’ arms, even more compelling.

Eponine’s parents, the Thenardiers, do their part to lighten the proceedings. These bawdy, crude and money-grubbing innkeepers are played to the hilt by Eric Mahlum and Rhonda Rae Busch. They give “Master of the House” all the gusto it requires.

Cabot Theatre’s intimacy is its most charming feature, but its small stage is not equipped to handle the set demands for Les Miz. Rhode was able to dodge this problem when directing her former Skylight blockbuster Sound of Music. She never attempted to duplicate the Alps, for instance.

But in Les Miz, once the massive barricade appears, it never really goes away. Even the clever lighting can’t compensate during scenes that contain only one or a few characters.

This is a slight drawback to an otherwise exceptional show that will create memories that linger throughout the holiday season.

On stage

Skylight Music Theatre’s production of Les Miserables continues in the Broadway Theatre Center’s Cabot Theatre, 158 N. Broadway, through Dec. 29. For tickets, call 414-291-7800 or go to www.skylightmusictheatre.org.

Hooper’s ‘Les Miserables’ is relentless

Tom Hooper’s extravaganza – big-screen telling of the beloved musical “Les Miserables” – is as relentlessly driven as the ruthless Inspector Javert himself. It simply will not let up until you’ve Felt Something – powerfully and repeatedly – until you’ve touched the grime and smelled the squalor and cried a few tears of your own.

It is enormous and sprawling and not the slightest bit subtle.

At the same time, it’s hard not to admire the ambition that drives such an approach, as well as Hooper’s efforts to combine a rousing, old-fashioned musical tale with contemporary and immediate aesthetics. There’s a lot of hand-held camerawork here, a lot of rushing and swooping through the crowded, volatile slums of Victor Hugo’s 19th-century France.

Two years after the release of his inspiring, crowd-pleasing “The King’s Speech,” winner of four Academy Awards including best picture, Hooper has vastly expanded his scope but also jettisoned all remnants of restraint.

But he also does something clever in asking his actors to sing live on camera, rather than having them record their vocals in a booth somewhere as is the norm, and for shooting the big numbers in single takes. The intimacy can be uncomfortable at times and that closeness highlights self-indulgent tendencies, but the meaning behind lyrics which have become so well-known shines through anew. You’d probably heard “I Dreamed a Dream,” the plaintive ballad of the doomed prostitute Fantine, sung countless times even before Susan Boyle unfortunately popularized it again in 2009. An emaciated and shorn Anne Hathaway finds fresh pain and regret in those words because her rendition is choked with sobs, because it’s not perfect.

That’s definitely part of the fascination of this version of “Les Miserables”: seeing how these A-list stars handle the demands of near-constant singing. Hugh Jackman, as the hero and former prisoner Jean Valjean, is a musical theatre veteran and seems totally in command (although the higher part of his register gets a bit nasal and strained). Amanda Seyfried, as Fantine’s daughter, Cosette, whom Jean Valjean adopts, had already proven she can sing in “Mamma Mia!” but hits some freakishly high notes here – which isn’t always a good thing. Eddie Redmayne is a lovely surprise as the love-struck revolutionary Marius. And of course, Samantha Barks gives an effortless performance as the lonely and doomed Eponine – everyone here is doomed, it’s “Les Miserables” – a role she’d performed on the London stage.

And then there’s Russell Crowe as the obsessed lawman Javert, who has pursued Jean Valjean for decades for breaking his parole and insists he’s still a dangerous man, despite the pious and prosperous life Valjean has forged. Although Crowe has sung in rock bands for years, he’s vocally overmatched here, which strips the character of the menace that defines him. Seeing him sing opposite Jackman makes you wish you could watch these same actors having these same conversations with, like, actual words. But again, it’s hard not to appreciate the effort, the risk it required to take on the role.

For the uninitiated, Javert hunts for Valjean against the backdrop of the Paris Uprising of 1832. Adorable street urchins, sassy prostitutes and virile subversives band together to build barricades, and to sing on top of them, until they are gunned down by French troops. The adorably smitten Cosette and Marius wonder whether they’ll ever see each other again. Thieving innkeepers Monsieur and Madame Thenardier (Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter, garishly over-the-top even by the characters’ standards) wonder when their next unsuspecting victim will come along. And Jean Valjean wonders whether he’ll ever truly be free.

How you feel walking out of this film two and a half hours later will depend a great deal on what you brought into it going in. Maybe you listened to the soundtrack fanatically in high school and still know all the words to “On My Own.” Perhaps you were thrilled to see the show on stage during a vacation to New York (and there’s a nice little cameo from Colm Wilkinson, the original Jean Valjean from the London and Broadway productions). You will probably be in far better shape than someone coming into this cold.

You may even cry when key characters die, even though you know full well what fate awaits them. There’s no shame in that – we’re all friends here.

On the Web…

http://www.lesmiserablesfilm.com

Jackman in the future, Turkey in the past

‘Steam: The Turkish Bath’ displays early talent of Ferzan Ozpetek

Set in mid-1990s Turkey and Italy, “Steam: The Turkish Bath” is gay filmmaker Ferzan Ozpetek’s full-length feature debut. It tells the story of Francesco (the hot Alessandro Gassman), who has inherited a hamam from his itinerant Aunt Anita. Francesco travels from Rome to Istanbul with the intention of selling the Turkish bathhouse, but once there he is smitten with the people, the culture and the bath. He also finds himself attracted to Mehmet (Mehmet Günsür), the son of the family who ran the baths for Anita.

The problem is that Francesco is married to Marta (Francesca d’Aloja). She’s having an affair with Paolo (Alberto Molinari), and when she surprises Francesco with a visit in Istanbul, divorce papers in her purse, she is in for a surprise herself. For all of its sexual intrigue, “Steam” is rather unsteamy. It’s more of a love letter to Istanbul, and the vaguely foreshadowed and violent ending feels a bit rushed.

Still, it’s worth seeing, if only as an example of early work by an important gay filmmaker.

DVD special features include an Ozpetek interview, a 20-minute doc about the film, the original trailer and much more.

Jackman takes on robots in raucous ‘Real Steel’

“Real Steel,” which is set a few unspecified years in the future, finds down-on-his-luck boxer Charlie (an occasionally shirtless Hugh Jackman) reduced to the county fair circuit. There he performs with his gigantic, fighting, RockEm, SockEm-style robot Ambush. But Charlie, who owes everyone money, gets deeper in debt when Ambush is gored by a bull in the ring.

To add insult to injury, Charlie’s ex-girlfriend Caroline, the mother of his 11-year-old son Max (Dakota Goyo), has kicked the bucket, and he has to make an appearance at a custody hearing. Sensitive father figure that he is, he has no trouble handing Max over to Caroline’s sister Deborah (Hope Davis) and her loaded hubby Marvin (James Rebhorn). For a sum.

While Debra and Marvin are off globe-trotting, Charlie temporarily looks after Max. The two virtual strangers bond over a series of mishaps and mayhem. Max turns out to be a quick study, not only when it comes to training fighting bots, but also in making friends (and enemies) and influencing people in the sordid world of robot boxing. He’s also got some pretty smooth dance moves. Together, they’re almost unstoppable.

This surprise box office blockbuster is as loud and violent as anything in Michael Bay’s bag of tricks. After all, it is about boxing robots. The ending leaves plenty of room for a sequel – and with any luck it will feature a more shirtless Jackman. If you don’t mind a mild ringing in your ears, there are probably worse ways to waste a couple of hours.

Bonus material on the two-disc Blu-ray/DVD combo pack includes bloopers, deleted and extended scenes, featurettes and much more.

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