Lucien’s Review: Logan

It’s nice to see that Twentieth Century Fox has the balls and creative integrity to do what Disney’s Marvel isn’t capable of doing – taking risks.  And hot shit are those risks paying off!  This is not only the Wolverine film that all of us have been hoping for since the very beginning of seeing this character, but also the superhero film that so many of us have been waiting for.  And as I said, it was Twentieth Century Fox who brought it to us.  The studio didn’t seem to believe this film nor the one whose sequel was teased in the beginning would even find a fanbase, but find it they did.  Perhaps the fat cat suits in Hollywood can actually realize that making a superhero film that isn’t for kids can be profitable.  Perhaps we can get to see some of our favorite dark superheroes brought to light.  Netflix is doing a pretty good job working with this.  Their Punisher is pretty badass.  This is a fantastic movie.  Let’s talk about it.

Anyone in my audience who actually wants to see this film already has.  I realize that since my reviews are always late, I am going to start trying to find an angle to talk about which everyone else hasn’t.  So no plot recap.  It’s an adaptation of the Old Man Logan storyline, where we get to meet an equally-badass character – X-23.  A tragic tale of the death of two of the greatest mutants to ever live, along with the introduction that hopefully isn’t wasted.

The glue that holds this movie together is the performances.  Hugh Jackman definitely steals the show as an aging Logan.  His powers are starting to fail him, and his age has finally caught up with him.  A lost soldier, he’s not looking for a spot to live.  He’s looking for a place to die.  But over the course of the film he comes to realize that he has one last chance to truly feel what it’s like to be alive.  A lot of comparisons have been made between this film and the incredible game The Last of Us, and I can kind of see that.  Jackman makes a pretty good Joel of the film, equally as gruff and equally tired of being alive.  And just like Joel, he meets a companion who makes him want to live again.  Only difference is how it all ends, and the level of dark implications for both characters.  Logan gets his redemption in the end.  Joel does not, but that is part of why the narrative works.

Next up with have Patrick Stewart.  Part of me likes the dark implications with this character.  There is some backstory to what happened to him that you never fully understand.  He’s done something horrible, and just like Logan, his powers are failing him.  Two of the last mutants on Earth, both of them are equally lost.  As his mind is slowly faltering, he goes from a mutant who doesn’t care about anything, to getting to enjoy one last adventure with the only friend he has left.  Stewart plays the old man with nowhere left to go very well.  You believe the chemistry between him and Logan.  He simultaneously hates and depends on his angry companion, and the juxtaposition does not escape his notice.

Of course, the character everyone is talking about is X-23.  This girl brought the character to life incredibly well.  This could so easily have been botched, as so many child actors just suck, but this girl brought her a-game to the table and it shows.  Just like Joel and Ellie in the game that everyone says this story is ripping off, the bond that grows between these two is believable.  They do take moments to address the reality that both of them are becoming killers and there is no going back.

Something else I want to talk about is the language in this movie.  As I said, I am loving the fact that we have comic movies with the balls to go this far, but part of me can’t help but early on was just so forced.  Some of the times that they would be laying down the word fuck liberally just felt so middle school.  I like hearing Professor X swear, but don’t make me think that it was put in there just because.  Fuck is a great word, but use it when you mean it.

Another thing is the carnage.  Everyone who reviewed this movie said that it was grotesque and violent, hard-R, I was told.  It’s violent, but don’t be fooled.  This isn’t Robocop levels of grotesque.  It has blood and gore, but still plays it safe.  That being said, while they may not always embrace how vicious it can be, the kills still felt visceral.  When you have Logan tearing people apart, you actually feel like that would hurt.  This film knew that it could take risks but only to a point.  I mean, if it really stuck to how disgusting Logan’s murder sprees would be, people would call it gore porn.  The creators of the film wisely chose to make emphasis on the killing to make it feel personal.  And when you watch X-23 on top of a gut tearing him open, you can tell that that would be scary as fuck to witness.

All things considered, this was a ballsy, very intense superhero film.  The most I have seen since The Dark Knight.  It took risks that no film of its genre would dare doing, and I am so desperately hoping it won’t be the last.  Disney’s Marvel will never have the guts.  Not unless they pawn it off on some lesser Disney studio so if it sucks they can give the blame there.  That’s what they did with Princess Mononoke.  See, Disney owned the rights to Studio Ghibli films, but Miyazaki outright refused to make any cuts to the violence in his magnum opus.  The film was a huge hit in Japan and Disney wanted a piece of that pie.  So rather than fight with Miyazaki when he sent a katana to the head of Disney at the time with a note attached saying “no cuts,” they pawned it off to a studio that they owned but was far away enough from Disney to be able to distribute it without them looking bad.  A clever tactic.  And it worked.  I am hoping that some film creators come to them after Infinity War, when the MCU will be toning down and sputtering away, and wants to look at some of the more violent superheros in the library and give them a fair shake.  Take a note form how big a success this movie and Deadpool have been, Disney.  You can do this.  The reward will come in ten-fold.  Not to mention, both of the movies that have taken this approach have made the most of having a smaller budget.  The limited resources not only meant that they had to be more clever in making them, but also that they could much more easily recoup their budget.  Deadpool and Logan have been massive financial successes.  Hint-hint!

This was a phenomenal movie.  It’s sad to see Logan go, but the X-Men brand has gotten kind of stale anyway.  But please, for the love of Groj, do NOT let the next film with X-23 be some watered-down version of this character!  She’s a violent killing machine.  Respect that.

Final Verdict
9 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s Review: X-Men: Days of Future Past

X-Men Days of Future PastFollowing the second X-Men film, without a single exception, the films in this franchise have sucked.  A lot of people say that First Class was pretty good, but the fact is that it is merely the best of the crap.  That’s not saying a lot.  When I saw the preview for this movie, I thought that this was it – the franchise was totally fucked.  This was the bottom of the barrel.  However, when I finally got around to seeing this movie, I am happy to say – I was dead wrong.  Thank god.  Not only did this film bring a franchise that was teetering on the edge of death back to life, but it red-conned the single worst part of it.  Well, okay, the second-worst part.  There is almost nothing worse than Origins: Wolverine.  That film will go down in history for what a piece of shit it is.

The plot of this movie kicks off out of nowhere.  Set many years after the events of the third film, a war has been fought between humanity and mutants.  What kicked it off?  They never really say.  New machines, called Sentinels, were deployed into battle.  They were able to identify mutants, and used to kill them.  But not just the ones already existing.  No, they also identified people who are potential mutants, and anyone who was helping them.  It was a massive global genocide, leaving only the worst of humanity to rule what little was left.  Most of the X-Men are dead, and what few are left have devised a radical and dangerous scheme that could end the war before it starts, or destroy what little is left.

Now, this movie is a bit of a mixed bag in a lot of ways.  On the one hand, there are some very great things, and on the other hand, there are a LOT of little plot holes that go nowhere and get REALLY annoying in a big way.  Let’s discuss the good stuff first.

The powers in this movie are very cool.  It helps that they have some excellent special effects.  It makes the use of powers and the battle sequences excellent.  That is the very best part of this movie.  The X-Men films have always had difficulty making the most of the fact that they have all these people who can do amazing things.  It should make set-piece moments more like Avengers than what they have been so far.  This movie seems to have taken that to heart.  It uses all the potential of what mutants are capable of.  There are two scenes in-particular that are so cool to watch.  I won’t spoil them, but let’s just say, one involves speed, the other involves metal.  Those two moments are just spectacular.  The most fun one gets from this movie is watching the awesome battle sequences and how well the powers flow with them.

The other thing is the characters.  This is a very dark movie, and it plays to that a lot.  But it combines the best of the characters from First Class with our old favorites from the old trilogy.  My favorite is Kitty Pryde, but that’s just because I have a thing for Ellen Page.  I’m man enough to admit that.  Still, Logan is funny and able to carry his role with class.  The young Charles Xavier is too much.  For real, this guy is awesome.  Young Magneto is delightfully evil.  Young Beast is infinitely better than the old one.  Since this movie is going out of its way to make it so that the third movie didn’t exist, I am down with that.  It’s like the third film’s Beast didn’t, either.

Which brings us to the last element that makes this film work – the darkness.  A lot like the Captain America film, this one goes to a very dark place.  It was very reminiscent of X2.  It makes for a more rounded experience.  However, the darkness does, unfortunately, lead to the films problems.

The first problem is that the plot comes right the fuck out of nowhere.  For real, there is a little lip-service paid to how it all started, but it is rushed as fuck.  Same with a lot of areas of the pace of the movie.  Characters are introduced with a rushed explanation, only for them to vanish without a trace.  We meet a ton of new people, but barely get to know any of them.  Some mutants get new abilities that are never even addressed where they came from.  Though maybe that is for the best.  Perhaps its better to treat something that makes no sense like, in the film’s universe, it does.  I will say that it didn’t annoy me for too long.  Add up all the smaller plot holes, it does get annoying sometimes in a big way.

But all that is really just nit-picking.  The reality is that this film is saved by one of the most fitting endings for a X-Men film.  It wraps up its plot rather nicely.  Plus, it red-conned the entirety of the third film.  Thank fucking god.  I think this entire movie was made for the express purpose of making that film not exist.  I’m not complaining.  It works.  It works very well.

This was a lot of fun to watch.  It’s ironic that the best films that came out last summer were the ones that people least-expected to be good.  There was Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, and now we have this movie.  It isn’t the greatest superhero film in the world, but I am glad to say that I watched it.  Take from that what you will.

Final Verdict
7 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

Top 10 GOOD Superhero Movies

Well, I thought I would do another back-to-back top 10 post about the thing that I think most of us are sick of – comic book movies.  There are so many options to pick from about which ones are bad.  I could go on and on and on about how terrible so many of them are.  But, where there are 10 bad ones, there is one good one.  What film that really is enjoyable and well done.  This is a list paying homage to the comic book films that are actually worth sticking around to watch, rather than total pieces of shit, like the rest.  I hope you enjoy.

10. Constantine
Given my total lack of religion, you may find this one out of place, but honestly, I look at films about Christianity the same way that I would look at Greek or Norse mythology.  I judge them on their own merits, and here, I found this to be a pretty good film.  Keanu Reeves was in his element, as Constantine, a demon hunter trying to buy his way into heaven.  Through the film, he meets a police detective, played by Rachel Weisz, and he gradually figures out a plan by the son of Satan to bring about the apocalypse.  It’s got a cool premise, good acting, solid action sequences, and it uses the special effects to add to the story, not wow the audience.  An all-around good film, even for those of us who see Christianity for what it is – a cheap way to control people.  Well, not so cheap, when you see their palaces of worship.

9. The Punisher
I have always enjoyed John Travolta as a bad guy.  This was a film that didn’t do what a LOT of superhero movies do – have huge over-the-top action sequences.  This made the action very believable, made the characters very human.  Again, it didn’t focus on the action, but on the people.  This film tells the story of Frank Castle.  After a huge bust, he is retiring from the police force.  But the mobster whose son he ended up getting killed swears revenge.  He kills Frank Castle’s family, and nearly kills him.  Now, Castle is back, and vows revenge in the most brutal way possible.  Like what was done to his family, he isn’t just killing them, he’s killing their entire lives.  It’s a sick and twisted story about a sick and twisted hero, which made a guy who is known in the comic book universe for killing first, asking questions later into a very likeable and tragic character.  But of course, the sequel to this movie butt-raped all the coolness this film had done.

8. Batman Returns
Now, before you go off on me, I loved the original film.  Jack Nicholson was awesome.  But, as much as I loved that movie, this one I liked a little bit more.  There are a lot of reasons why.  The first is the even darker premise than the other film.  In this movie, there is a lot more character struggle, which makes what is happening disturbing and relatable.  There is also the relationship between Selena Kyle, aka. Catwoman, and Bruce Wayne.  And as Catwoman, she is very, very cool.  She isn’t the more anti-hero style character from The Animated Series or the comics, but she still is very fun, and her look is both creepy and cool.  Sure, Danny DeVito’s Penguin isn’t that great, but I still think it was pretty solid.  Another thing I loved about this film was how it didn’t have a triumphant ending.  The ending was very bittersweet, which made it very cool, and very fun.

7. X-Men
The first and second films in this series were awesome.  It made the complete piece of shit that the third film was that much harder to swallow.  But this was a very solid film.  The scope was pretty nice, the acting was very good.  Sure, Toad was a REALLY lame villain, but he was a villain who was kind of an add-on, and not in the story especially much, so you didn’t really care.  But the casting in this movie was well-done.  Sir Patrick Stewart as Professor Xavier was so perfect.  I really couldn’t see anybody else doing that role in the same way, and with such skill.  And like all the other good superhero films, it keeps everything small and reasonable.  Sure, the ultimate goal was to turn all of NYC into mutants, but the action was contained, and it felt very personal.  That was the fun of it.  And the second film also kept that that same kind of thing, but I like this one better.

6. Watchmen
A lot of people didn’t seem to like this movie, but to be honest, I thought that this was quite the film.  Unlike most comic book films, it chose to examine the darker aspect of being a comic book hero – walking away.  This film tells the story of the Watchmen.  They were a group of costumed heroes who are now outlawed.  Each of them is coming to grips with their new reality, and it is a very tragic look at the people who had to lose their role in society.  Each character was an interesting study.  Even though I am a very liberal guy, I still loved Rorschach’s monologues.  This film was like a character study, about what it means to be a hero, and what it means to see the worst in society and to accept it.  While it wasn’t the action film that everybody thought it was going to be, for me, that doesn’t hurt it’s awesomeness.  In fact, it helps it to be more awesome.  To me, anyway.

5. Iron Man 2
Robert Downy Jr. was the best thing that happened to this film.  He was able to bring life to a character who really isn’t all that interesting.  That said, I really liked the first film, but this one was much better.  Tony Stark is using his suit as a new military deterrant, but his time is quickly running out.  The core that is keeping him alive is also killing him, and the Iron Man suit is speeding up this process.  Meanwhile, a man with an eye for vengeance comes to the arena to smote Stark into ruin.  There is a real sense of personal tragedy to this.  The human element is very clear, and while there are a lot more effects in this movie than in some others, it uses them to tell the story, rather than as eye-candy, like in Avatar.  And the final action sequence isn’t all that long and drawn-out, but no less epic.  Getting to see the War Machine throw down is pretty awesome, but at the end of the right, Tony shows that Iron Man is still the badass.

4. The Crow
During the 90’s, there were a precious few good superhero movies, and then there were the ones that totally blew balls.  In fact, some of them were so bad that people feared the genre was dead forever.  However, The Crow is not one such movie.  This was one of the few saving graces of the 90’s superhero movies.  It tells the story of Eric Draven.  He has come back from the dead with the help of an ancient curse.  This allows him to go on a mission to get revenge against the people who killed him, along with raping and murdering his girlfriend.  This was a very dark film, which goes with the original comic perfectly.  Brandon Lee died during the filming of this movie, but he left a legacy of skill, and it was a testament to how cool he was.  A good revenge story is always its own reward, especially when the vengeance demon is as cool as Eric Draven.

3. RED (Retired and Extremely Dangerous)
The thing I like most about this movie is the fact that it has such fun with the premise.  This is like Jason Bourne meets Grumpy Old Men.  And it is so awesome!  I haven’t laughed in a long time the way I did with this film.  This has got to be the funniest, most bizarre film that I have ever seen.  The premise is simple – there are four former-CIA agents.  They got too old and retired, but aren’t handling it so well.  This film got some of the best actors who have ever lived, and put them all in a room together.  Morgan Freeman, Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren.  They are all incredible.  To have these people in this kind of movie is just so weird, and so cool.  It was not only a solid comic book film, but it was also a solid action-comedy.  Those two things are almost never synonymous.  I am so glad that the people who made this film made it respectable.

2. Sin City
What made this film so cool is the fact that they were actually using the special effects to make it as much like the comic as possible.  And it works so well in this movie.  The limited use of color is pretty cool, having the entire world be in very gothic and unpleasant backgrounds.  The premise of this movie is that there are people in the town who are given, by sheer chance, the opportunity to do good things.  Of course, since this is a town where evil is the name of the game, they can only do good things in context to the ugliness of their world.  This film is violent, it’s harsh, and it never lets up.  There is never a truly calm or happy moment.  Even the moments that are loving seem very harsh.  That’s not something that is easily done.  The huge use of special effects would normally kill a movie like this, but this movie is living proof that you can use these kinds of effects well.  Pity other movies that massively invest in CG don’t learn that lesson (Avatar, anyone?!).

My favorite superhero film, though, I like for a totally different reason.

1. The Dark Knight
The thing that draws me into this film so much is that it makes the comic book hero and especially the comic book villain into something that they weren’t before – realistic.  It really makes this kind of thing into something we could see.  These kinds of people could be the people we meet on the side of the road.  The portrayal of the Joker in this movie still scares me, because of the fact that they made it clear that he is a character who could be the person that we meet.  These kinds of monsters exist, and the idea that a rational world can exist is really put to the test.  The Joker didn’t want power, money, or anything like that.  He wanted to prove a point – that Batman is just as corruptable as the rest of us.  He destroys a fair chunk of Gotham to make this point too.  This film also captured the tragedy of Harvey Dent, who is turned into Two-Face.  Not only is this my favorite comic book film, but it’s also one of my favorite movies.  Incredible, from start to finish.

But of course, where there is a good film about superheroes, there are some GOD-AWFUL films!  And they will be seen in the next post.  Stay tuned!

Until next time, a quote,

“See, to them, you’re just another freak.  Like me!  They need you now, but when they don’t…they’ll cast you out.  Like a leper!”  -Joker, The Dark Knight

Peace out,

Maverick