Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Logan (2017)

Logan (2017)

Director: James Mangold

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen, Richard E. Grant, Stephen Merchant

In the spirit of James Mangold’s new X-men movie: Logan (2017), let’s start this review straight to the point shall we? Logan is a swift kick to the nuts to all these comic book movies that we’ve been seeing as of late. You know the ones. The computer generated fuck-a- thons that we’ve gotten so accustomed to. The truth is that we’ve had enough of those haven’t we? Movies in which computer effects have taken over human emotion, they’ve taken away that feeling. You walk out a lot of those movies with numbness in your head. Logan is the complete opposite of that and it’s so goddamn refreshing!

Logan is the story of Wolverine in his last days, when he finds no pleasure in being alive. His “dad” is Professor Xavier, an aging empath who can’t control his powers. In comes a woman named Gabriela who wants’ the famous ‘Wolverine’ to help her find a place called ‘Eden’, a supposed heaven for mutants somewhere in North Dakota. Can Old Man Logan still do this? Will he agree to helping Gabriela and Little Laura reach ‘Eden’?

I honestly thought people were exaggerating about how good Logan was, because recent films that people have raved about have disappointed the hell out of me.  John Wick Chapter 2 (2017) I’m looking at you kid. So I went to see Logan with some trepidation, yet the first ten minutes of this film quickly put me in my place! It wasn’t long before I was saying things like “What. The. Fuck.” Should I put things in perspective? The films first words are “Aw fuck!”. On this film, Logan is a limo driver trying to forget his past with the X-men, he’s trying to live the life of a regular Joe. Basically, he just wants to be left alone to die in peace. Mutants are going extinct and Professor Xavier is a senile old man who doesn’t know where he stands. Holy bajeezus! What the hell is going on here? I wasn’t ready to see Wolverine and Prof. Xavier in such dire straits! It is this level of gravitas that makes this film stand apart, it’s not afraid to mess with the status quo, in fact, it throws the whole X-men universe out the window! Fuck that shit! Awwww I love it!

The great thing about this film is that it is a cliché breaker; it takes everything you expect from a Wolverine movie and turns it upside down. This is why it works so well, on this movie nothing is sacred and anything can happen. So you feel unsafe, you don’t feel like you can predict the film every step of the way, like you’d be able to predict a film like Kong Skull Island (2017) for example. I mention Kong Skull Island because I actually did a double feature of Logan/Kong and went from the ultimate anti-cliché movie (Logan) to a cliché by the numbers movie (Kong). So trust me, Logan is like a bucket of cold water being thrown down your back. It’s the ice bucket challenge, but for X-men fans!  

Why does this movie work so well? Various factors play an important factor in this. First, moviegoers in general are tired of computer generated special effects, specially the kind that take over an entire film. You know how it is. Suddenly, nothing that is happening on screen is real; it was all created on a computer. This can go on for minutes and minutes on end. I mean, suddenly it’s been ten minutes and not a single actor, not a single set, not a single real location has been seen on screen and then you have to wonder, am I watching a live action film or an animated one? Wolverine keeps its visual effects to a minimum. This is not to say that it doesn’t have them, but it keeps them to a minimum, to enhance a moment. And even then, they don’t take over. They are simply used to enhance an illusion. Beautiful. It’s the way effects should be used. Second. This is a strong screenplay. Why? Well, because its not about saving the universe from another whole that’s opening up in the middle of New York City (again), rather, it’s a very personal story about Logan and Proffessor Xavier dealing with getting old and coming to the last stage, coming to terms with the end of their lives.

The third and final point is that the cast Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart and newcomer Dafne Keen out do themselves performance wise! They all bring their ‘A’ game here. I’ve heard some people talk about giving Patrick Stewart a nomination or something. That might be stretching it a little? It probably has to do with how different this take on Professor Xavier is. It’s great to see Logan playing the father figure to X-23, the scenes with both of them together, road tripping? Sweet.  One little thing though, I did feel that Logan turns suddenly into Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome (1984). Was director James Mangold paying tribute to that film? The reason I mention this is because the similarities are staggering. So that’s it ladies and gents. What we got here is a fantastic film that shakes the very foundations of the X-men universe. Wolverine fans should be pleased. Question is, who’s gonna be playing Wolverine next? Whoever he is, he’s got big shoes to fill.

Rating: 5 out of 5


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Alien: Covenant (2017)

Alien: Covenant (2017)

Director: Ridley Scott

Cast: Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride, Demian Bichir, Guy Pierce, James Franco, Noomi Rapace

Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979), is one of those seminal horror films that changes the face of a genre so much, that it marks the way the genre will be for years and years to come. How many movies have imitated the style, the look of Ridley Scott’s original monster movie? Many that’s how many.I could write a list of films that look and play out exactly like it: Alien Contamination (1980), Galaxy of Terror (1981), Outland (1981), Leviathan (1989), Event Horizon (1997)…and the list goes on and on. Ridley Scott left that Alien franchise after having directed that first film and the sequels that followed were directed by talented directors that took each film in totally different directions, which is why I love this franchise, each director has put his stamp on each film, so they are all extremely different. Now if we fast forward a few decades, things have come full circle. Now Ridley Scott has retaken the franchise as if saying “this is my baby and I’m going to make it my freaking legacy to the world!” Which is what Prometheus and Alien: Covenant are, these films represent Ridley Scott’s reclaiming the franchise he started. Does Ridley Scott still have it?

Alien: Covenant is a direct sequel to Prometheus (2012), just in case you had your doubts. This is the story of how the xenomorphs came to be, those nasty sharp teeth, perfect killing machines with acid for blood. Alien: Covenant is the second film in a planned trilogy of prequels, they tell us the story of how the infamous aliens came to be. When Prometheus came out, audiences complained about the lack of xenomorphs, audiences wanted more of the creature that frightened them so much in Alien (1979), they wanted the horror element amped up, the wanted that nail biting, heart pounding suspense they got that first time around. But I like Prometheus for what it is, part of a trilogy of how these creatures came to be, it’s the back story. With Alien: Covenant we can definitely see a story unfolding. There are some surprises in store for fans of the Alien franchise, my mind was blown. I mean, yeah, these prequels are deeper and more profound, but that has to do with the fact that Ridley Scott has grown as a filmmaker, he has a lot more to say about life, hence, the difference in tone between these new prequels and the classic Alien films.

And speaking of depth and themes, what I enjoy about these prequels is that they explore the origins of man. Who would’ve thought that the Alien movies would end up touching such heavy themes? But here we are considering themes about the origins of man, about death, about who made us. The exploration of these themes begins with the introduction to androids, synthetic beings who are capable of thinking and feeling like humans. Similar to us in every detail save for one: they can outlive us. Questioning death and begging the universe for more life is a theme that Scott has been exploring since Blade Runner (1984) a film in which we have renegade androids begging their creator, their “father”, for more life. So yeah, Ridley Scott’s exploration of heavy philosophical themes continues in Alien: Covenant. These are questions that need answers, and Scott knows they cannot be ignored. After all, these are "the big questions" in life. It doesn’t surprise me that these are themes Ridley Scott has chosen to explore now, at the end of his career and last half of his life. Scott is probably feeling extremely identified with the themes explored in these films, questioning life, questioning where we came from, who made us and ultimately: why must we die? As I write this, Sir Ridley Scott is 79 years old!

Ridley Scott does not forget that the franchise started with what is essentially a monster movie, a horror film, and a very good one at that. When we go into top horror movies ever made, there’s no doubt Alien (1979) will make the list. And Ridley Scott knows that. So with Alien: Covenant he seems to want to go back to that horror, the spine tingling, nail biting suspense. And I have to say that Scott nailed it. There are some genuine scary moments here, there’s gore, there’s blood. Yes my friends, this one amps up the terror. But the great thing about Alien: Covenant is that it doesn’t forget that it is a sequel to Prometheus. So it’s like we get half of the philosophy and deep themes of Prometheus (2012), and half of the horror and suspense from Alien (1979), so it should satisfy both camps.

The film works even better because it has an awesome cast, and a very eclectic one at that. Here’s Danny McBride doing a serious role, he doesn’t do bad at all I have to say. But if one performance stands out it has to be Michael Fassbender in the dual role of David and Walter, the androids of the film. I simply love Fassbender in anything he does, but here he clearly plays two different roles and it is magnificent. But then again, so many things are magnificent here. The screenplay is so poetic, so good, the dialog sounds beautiful with many references to classical music and poetry. By the way, you’d do good in reading Percy Shelley’s sonnet ‘Ozymandias’, it comes into play at one point in the film. Finally, the production itself is gorgeous looking, the sets, the ship designs, the alien designs I mean, this film is simply beautiful to look at, which comes as no surprise in a Ridley Scott film. So go see this completely satisfying sequel! Here’s hoping this one makes some cash at the box office so we can get to see the next and final film in this prequel trilogy!

Rating: 5 out of 5      



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