Logan (*****): Take a moment. Feel it.

omlogan

Logan – 2017

Director James Mangold
Screenplay Scott Frank, James Mangold, Michael Green
Starring Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Richard E. Grant, Boyd Holbrook, Stephen Merchant, Dafne Keen, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Eriq LaSalle, Elise Neal, Doris Morgado, David Kallaway, Han Soto, Jayson Genao and Krzysztof Soszynski

After grinding down so much earth into dust, they finally found a single diamond. Logan is the Wolverine our hearts always thought was there, even if we wasted many years wading through several mediocre movies to get to it. The X-Men universe was brought to a silly dead end last summer with Apocalypse. It was truly a movie that exemplified all that has been wrong with the film version of the hero troupe.

What should have been a crescendo of a decent second trilogy turned into another version of the Last Stand. Filled with colorful weirdos showing powers for no particular reason, we see parts of the planet destroyed and quickly repaired. No consequence and zero impression left.

To say that this movie was intended to counter that film would be cutting it short. Jackman has his own trilogy in the midst of the X-Men films, and in his own series, each film was better than the previous entry. It’s a sad truth, though, that many will find the entire series disposable prior to this opus.

The film starts in 2029 near El Paso, Texas. Logan is living on the wrong side of the border, mainly because he wants to stay hidden. He’s taking care of an aging and ever more erratic Charles Xavier (Stewart). Why? That’s for you to discover.

Adamantium is taking a toll on Logan’s healing powers. To the point that he carries around a bullet made of the stuff to just end it all sooner than later. He can’t end it though. One reason is Charles, who insists he’s been talking to a mutant. This is important because mutants are almost all completely wiped out.

The mutant he is talking to comes into their lives, even though the erstwhile Wolverine would prefer to just take his old friend and go out to sea. That ain’t gonna happen because X-23, or Laura (Keen), as she’s called, comes with some baggage.

Mangold and Jackman score quite a few home runs in this movie that pretends to be playing station to station. Stewart is a Godsend, as he makes even the silliest dialogue seem at once literate and heartfelt. This is nothing compared to what happens when Stewart is given some truly eloquent and memorable words to express.

As antagonist, Boyd Holbrook is an above average placeholder. There is nothing special about him, and this is a wise choice. They have other things to do in this film than to pretend that the bad guy in the ad has a chance.

I won’t say much about the other antagonists in the film, other than to say that the writers hate expositional explanations as much as old man Logan does. This is comes to a welcome relief.

Keen has an excellent, ravaging energy. She is berserk when she needs to be and definitely doesn’t waste words or screen time. Many in the theater really enjoyed her performance, laughing much and snickering as she attacked with ferocity any who crossed her. I found the performance impactful and there definitely were a few funny moments.

The key to Keen’s performance, though, is seeing how she, Stewart and Jackman play off of one another. There is little joy in Logan. For our older heroes, the entire exercise is a drawn out torture that is exacerbated when they see how easily she is drawn into conflict.

When lucid, Xavier believes she is a light in the world, capable of improving on what mutant kind was before now. Logan refuses to invest too much emotion in the little girl who so desperately needs to cling to something solid. Life is hell for her now, he knows. Why should he pretend it ever won’t be?

Clint Eastwood made a remarkable 2nd career out of playing the guy hobbled by age, injury and heartache. Hugh Jackman has always channeled a bit of Eastwood in his portrayals of Logan. This film is different. Jackman owns this version of The Wolverine and he treats it with the utmost care. His emotional range is beyond anything even Eastwood has done. One has no choice but to feel every blow Logan receives in this film. Neither his flesh nor his spirit is willing this time around. When he fights, he fights scared. But not scared stupid.

Jackman has never been better. Stewart has rarely reached this level. Keen is remarkable for such a relatively inexperienced actress. Any or all of the three deserve nominations for their performances here. I won’t hold my breath, though. If they didn’t reward Stallone for his portrayal of Rocky, the Academy will likely assume the Oscars are too good for this astounding film.

The carnage is breathtaking in Logan. There is much mutilation and severed limbs and heads. As bad as it is, it is matched unnecessarily with an over reliance on profanity. Yes, I know that is the image of The Wolverine comics, but moderation might have made a more distinct impression. I will say it does work in relation to Charles. Something must be wrong if that refined and dignified person is throwing curses like punches.

If you’ve skipped all of the X Men films after the 2nd, this might be a good place to pick up again. Heck if you skipped all of the films, but want to see an incredibly well played drama, partake in this feature. Much care went into this film, and it feels like everything is balanced on the edge of a knife. And then the knife slips and goes right through.

It’s worth all of the pain, just to know how Logan feels in the moment.

(***** out of *****)

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Sharknado: Now we know what global warming can do…

Sharknado

Sharknado – 2013

Director Anthony C. Ferrante
Starring Tara Reid, Ian Ziering, John Heard, Cassie Scerbo, Jaason Simmons, Chuck Hittinger
Screenplay Thunder Levin

Who left the 14-year-old alone with the computer and the HD camera?  I found my kids writing the script for Sharknado 2: The Grouchnapper Needs a Snack.   I am pretty sure that Thunder Levin is a pseudonym for my nephew, Joe.

Really, though, if Syfy is trying anything, it’s an effort to see who could do worse.  For all the bad special effects seen in this film, you’d figure they could afford some blush over Tara Reid’s uneven Botox.  Let’s not single her out though.  Let’s congratulate her, Ziering and Heard for finding work, even if it is at the business end of a shark.

How do you get through a movie like this?  I had to watch it in chunks, carefully avoiding my wife walking in the room.  She took this film as a personal affront whenever her gaze happened on the screen filled with cheaply drawn effects and even cheaper acting.

It’s beyond not trying and beyond not caring, it’s trying really hard to appear not to care.  There are people out in the world trying to get screenwriting, directing and acting credentials in hopes of one day getting to present their truest art to an audience who might really appreciate it.  You know, like Richard E. Grant in The Player.  Really though, if you enjoyed that film, you might enjoy the spirit with which this one was birthed.

Irony is, even with the press that the film got after the below average ratings the film received in its first showing, the film got a big gift from recently deceased actor Cory Monteith.  The Glee actor’s final two tweets were about Sharknado.  It does not necessarily elevate Sharknado in prestige, so much as it creates a clearer picture of how aimless Monteith’s last hours must have been.

Still, if my kids can watch Disney’s Teen Beach Movie and think that the movie within a movie WET Side Story is the name of a classic, then I suppose worse things could happen than spending one’s time watching this crap.  Not much worse, to be sure.

Watch at your own peril: which is really an awareness that you think you’ve got enough time to put into something that will likely subtract more than time from your life.

(*)