Quick Review: Logan (dir. by James Mangold)


logan_2017_posterHey, bub! Before you read this,  Lisa already has an awesome review for Logan. Start there first, and if you feel like it, double back here.

The short of it:

+ Might be Jackman and Stewart’s best turn in their roles since X-2:X-Men United.

+ Logan’s well written, with some good characterization, particularly among the leads. There’s a vulnerability here.

+ It’s brutal. Logan is the bloody version of Wolverine we all hoped for.

+ Moves like the best of Westerns. Just about as cool as 3:10 to Yuma.

+ Though changed from her comic book origins Laura (X-23) is awesome on screen.

– The film feels long. For a film that’s just a hair over 2 hours, it feel almost like 3.

– Some of the action scenes may be a little quick for the camera.

– There isn’t an answer/explanation for everything (nor should there be).

The long of it:

I was 25 when I saw the original X-Men in the cinema. While everyone was excited to see their favorite mutants show up on screen (no Nightcrawler for me – that would take the sequel), it was Wolverine that caused the most buzz. When Hugh Jackman first stepped into the role, there was a great deal of skepticism. He wasn’t short and stocky nor big and bulky, and there was only so much one could do to give him that Wolverine look. Yet, he made the role his own and despite a few stutter-steps (such as X-Men: The Last Stand, X-Men Origins: Wolverine), it’s hard to fathom any X-Men film without him.

The same can also be said of Patrick Stewart. Just about the easiest first pick for Charles Xavier anyone could have, his time with the X-Men is only slightly shorter as he wasn’t really needed for X-Men: First Class.

It’s been roughly 17 years for them both. That’s longer than any single actor’s run of James Bond. Longer than any superhero portrayal – Christopher Reeve only had a decade as Superman. Robert Downey Jr. Has about 9 years under his belt as Iron Man. It’s about time that their stories come to a close.

There was a bit of yawning and exaggerated sighing in my screening of Logan, which leads me to believe the audience was really expecting a faster paced film. I didn’t get the outright snoring that occurred during a Manhattan showing of the Robocop remake, if that’s any consolation. Usually the Midnight crowd are the liveliest bunch of patrons, particularly when it comes to superhero or action films. At its heart, Logan is a drama piece peppered with action sequences. It honestly felt like a really good Western, with an old cowboy that wants nothing more than to hang up his guns, yet finds their peace constantly challenged. The film has a lot of exposition through dialogue, and for some, this could make the story feel really slow at times. It’s not a superhero action film, even though it has its moments.

The Western angle is of no real surprise here, given that Logan reunites 3:10 to Yuma and The Wolverine director James Mangold with both Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart. It flows in the same fashion as Yuma, but with mutants.

Logan takes place in a future timeline where no new mutants have appeared in nearly 20 years (which is very similar to Alfonso Cuaron’s Children of Men). James Howlett is a broken individual working as a limo driver. Time has taken its toll on The Wolverine. He doesn’t heal as well as he used to and he struggles with the Adamantium in his bones. Adding to Logan’s troubles is an ailing Charles Xavier. Forced to take care of him both out of friendship and the possible danger he poses, I felt it added a great level of vulnerability to both individuals. They’re both nearing their end and they can’t count on their abilities to rescue them as well as it once could. The conversations between them speak of regrets and/or just keeping afloat, though Xavier is still hopeful that there’s some good on the horizon. Their long term friendship also adds to the banter between the two, with a few comical quips throughout the film.

The audience never truly learns how this timeline occurred, but it doesn’t truly matter. This is a character driven film, not so much a plot driven one. The story amps up a little once Laura (Dafne Keen, in her first role) enters the mix. Those familiar with her comic origins will spot the connection, though it’s been changed in a number of ways to fit Mangold’s screenplay. Both Keen and Laura match up so well here that you could disregard the comic altogether in favor of this cinematic origin. Laura is being chased by a group of mercenaries led by Pierce (Brad Holbrook – Netflix’s Narcos), and her protector asks Logan to take her to a designated place.

Taking a cue from Deadpool’s success, Logan went with a R rating and makes the most of it. There’s profanity abound, and when the claws come out, there’s major bloodshed. Heads are skewered, limbs are lost and it’s a beautiful sight to behold. Did the movie have to have the blood? Perhaps not, but it doesn’t really detract from the story. If anything, it might come as a surprise when you first witness it all on screen. The only drawback to this is that some of the fight sequences are so quick that you could miss some of the movements. It’s not a terrible thing at all, but it may warrant a second viewing to catch everything.

In the end, Logan a perfect final chapter for one of the most popular X-Men out there.  We’ve all grown with both the character and the actors involved.

Experience Matters: THE PROFESSIONALS (Columbia 1966)


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A quartet of macho mercenaries – Lee Marvin Burt Lancaster Robert Ryan , and Woody Strode  – cross the dangerous Mexican desert and attempt to rescue a rich man’s wife kidnapped by a violent revolutionary in writer/director Richard Brooks’ THE PROFESSIONALS, an action-packed Western set in 1917.  The film’s tone is closer to Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Westerns than the usual Hollywood oater, though Leone’s trilogy wouldn’t hit American shores until a year later.

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Rich rancher J.W.Grant (screen vet Ralph Bellamy ) hires the quartet to retrieve wife Maria (Claudia Cardinale) from Jesus Raza (Jack Palance ), formerly a captain in Pancho Villa’s army, now a wanted bandito. Marvin is the stoic leader, a weapons expert who once rode with Raza for Villa, as did Lancaster’s explosives whiz. Ryan plays a sympathetic part (for a change) as the horse wrangling expert, while Strode is a former scout and bounty hunter adept…

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A Movie A Day #63: Showdown (1973, directed by George Seaton)


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Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

The time and the place is the old west.  Growing up, Chuck Jarvis (Rock Hudson) and Billy Massey (Dean Martin) were best friends.  When the lovely Kate (Susan Clark) chose Chuck over Billy, the two of them go their separate ways.  Billy becomes a notorious train robber.  Chuck becomes the sheriff of their hometown.  After Billy returns home, it is up to Chuck to not only capture him but to also protect him from not only his former partners but a gang of vigilantes as well.

There’s nothing surprising about Showdown, a strictly by the numbers western that, if not for a few bloody gunshot wounds and some dialogue about cattle “humping,” could have just as easily been released in 1953 as 1973.  The only thing that makes Showdown special is that it was the last western made by both Rock Hudson and Dean Martin.  Dino is his usual fun-loving, half-soused self but Rock Hudson looks absolutely miserable here.  If Rock’s role had been played by Frank Sinatra (or even Peter Lawford), Showdown would probably be remembered as a minor classic.  As it is, it’s for Dean Martin completists only.

 

“House Of Manson” Is Built On A Shaky Foundation


Trash Film Guru

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If I had the energy, ambition, or desire, I would begin this review with a lengthy preamble about the reasons why Charles Manson and his so-called “family” continue to hold such a grim fascination for so many of us, but you know what? The internet is chock full of thoughtful and articulate (as well as a number of hopelessly dull and derivative) essays on that very subject already,to the point where there’s literally nothing I can say about it all that hasn’t been said already. Suffice to say that even now, nearly a half-century after the Tate-LaBianca murders sent shock waves through the nation (and, indeed, the world), those waves continue to reverberate in ways both expected and unexpected and the very word “Manson” has become firmly ensconced as the brand name of choice for murder, madness, and mayhem. No amount of haughty proclamations about the killings associated with him marking…

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International Weirdness : “Territorial Behavior”


Trash Film Guru

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One of these days, I’ll learn to resist new micro-budget “found footage” horror flicks added to the Amazon Prime streaming queue, but today wasn’t that day, and you know what? I’m kind of glad for that fact, because the latest one that I watched — Irish writer/director Peter Bergin’s 2015 offering, TerritorialBehavior (which is apparently also available on Blu-ray and DVD, if you’re so inclined)  — turned out to be, while admittedly wholly unoriginal, pretty fun, well-executed, suspenseful stuff.

What Bergin is aiming for here is the classic bait-and-switch : outdoor survival instructor Bailey Rhodes (played with something more than competence but less than actual charisma by Ronan Murphy) heads out to the Montana (by way of Ireland) wilderness to film a tutorial video for prospective students/clients, but he soon finds himself squarely in the cross-hairs of a group of violent poachers who seem, shall we say, overly…

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