Logan tells great story

Unlike many superhero films of late, Logan is refreshingly old-school and human.

There is tremendous restraint and maturity in this current X-Men franchise release: in the acting, the directing and the lack of CGI extravaganza.

This movie, the third and final film of the Wolverine series, represents actor Hugh Jackman’s swan song in a role he has played for 18 years.

Taking place in the year 2029, we find that the world has changed; mutants have (mostly) been eradicated through a type of biological warfare that disabled genetic mutation in the population.

The once invincible Wolverine has fallen on hard times. Broke, beaten and unable to heal like he used to, he’s a dull shadow of his former self. His skin is mottled and lined, his trademark mutton chops have fused into a bushy beard and his eyes are bleary from alcoholism and world-weary exhaustion.

Wolverine got old!

Eking out a meagre existence living under the radar, Logan now drives a limousine. Once a week, he drives over the Mexico border to visit 90-year old Charles who is hidden away in a derelict industrial facility tended to by the albino Caliban.

Charles now suffers from intermittent senility and seizures and must be medicated lest his considerable psychic power be unleashed. There are hints of a catastrophic incident years ago that necessitated Charles’ current fugitive status and the need for his regular sedation.

Caliban is also weary of playing nurse to Charles for the last year and despite talk of escaping to a remote Mexican Oceanside town, all three participants seem to know even as they discuss it that it is a pipe dream that will never happen.

What upsets this dystopian apple cart is the arrival of Gabriela (Elizabeth Rodriguez – Orange Is The New Black) who desperately needs Logan’s help. She is a nurse on the run from a “big pharma bad guy” and is harboring a young girl, Laura (Dafne Keen – The Refugees).

They need Logan to take them to a place called Eden in North Dakota where they will be safe. Promising him $50K to do the deed, Logan senses his opportunity to finally escape with Charles to the bucolic seaside retirement they have talked about. He grudgingly accepts the task.

One of Wolverine’s through lines has been his reluctance to be a super hero or to get involved and this time is no exception. He never asked to become a mutant and now more than ever, it is a burden.

The adamantium that was put into his body is now poisoning him. It’s an irreversible process that can be delayed with the right serum, but not corrected.

Enter the rogue geneticist Dr. Rice responsible for all the havoc (Richard E. Grant - Jackie) with a venal cohort (Boyd Holbrook – Gone Girl) and an army of paramilitary cyborgs. They need to get Laura back and will do anything it takes to retrieve their property.

What ensues is a traditional chase film that leaves a bloody trail of bodies as Logan, Charles and Laura flee north and to freedom.

Wide-eyed, silent and almost feral, Laura is full of surprises as the movie unfolds and we find Charles bonding to her as a grandfather would and Logan reluctantly assuming the role of guardian.   

Logan is rated R for a reason – it is a violent film and not for the faint of heart. However, there is mature storytelling here and real restraint on display through much of the film so when the violence does erupt, it happens in an organic way that serves the genre.

Hugh Jackman gives his best performance yet as the titular character Logan. His relationship with Charles and Laura fully humanizes him and is a touching and appropriate close to his character.

Patrick Stewart is quite brilliant as the aged Charles slipping in and out of lucidity and provides the film with much needed levity and tenderness.

Newcomer Dafne Keen is perfectly cast as the mysterious Laura and I predict we will be seeing much more of this girl in the years to come.

Solid acting and overall smart film making make Logan a movie worth seeing. If you are an X-Men fan, this is a must-see installment and once again, it leaves door wide open for a new generation of future mutant heroes.

I give this film 4.5 out of 5 hearts.

Kim's Oscar review

The Academy Awards are always a political football, one where Hollywood feels compelled to make a statement to the world about who and what it values most.

Some years, the sentiment is directly in line with creative merit and in other years, key people and projects are overlooked. This year was certainly no exception.

Best Supporting Actress: The winner, Viola Davis (Fences), deserved to win this award. She is a force of nature in this gut-wrenching film about a lower middle class black family in the early 1950s.

See my Oscar prediction in my review: “There is no question that Davis will take the Oscar for best actress this year and I predict Washington will be nominated, but will not win.”

Best Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali (Moonlight). There was no question that Ali would take this award. His role in this film is pivotal and he played it with grit and commitment. While Ryan Gosling was charming as hell in La La Land, the role simply did not have the emotional weight to garner an Oscar.

Best Actress: Emma Stone (La La Land). Yup, loved Emma in this film. Her audition scene is what clinched her win in this most magical film. See my review:  “I’m predicting an Oscar win for best score as well as nominations for best film, director, actor and best actress.”

Best Actor: Casey Affleck (Manchester By The Sea). This win was hardly surprising as Affleck’s role carries the film and his restrained performance as a broken man was consistent and relentless.

Best Animated Film: Zootopia. Disagree. Kubo and the Two strings was a far more intricate and artistically interesting film. While I really enjoyed Zootopia and appreciate the importance of its theme of equality, Kubo was my pick for best animated film.

Best Director: Damian Chazelle (La La Land). Agreed! This gorgeous film also took Best Cinematography and Best Set Design. There are several one-take shots that must have been a logistical nightmare to shoot and they pulled it off beautifully. Well deserved labour of love (Chazelle was also nominated for best original screenplay).

Best Film: Moonlight. Here’s where the politics of the Academy come into play. Regardless of how big a hit the film is or however many other awards it is nominated for, the academy rarely votes for comedies or musicals.  Not since 2002’s musical Chicago has a non-drama won for best picture.

Hollywood loves to choose edgy and/or serious subject matter for its Best Film category despite box office success, other awards or overall popularity.

The Golden Globe awards has it right; there should be a separation in categories of Comedy/Musical and Drama. At the Golden Globes, they even use this separation for Best Actor/Actress awards and it makes sense.

The emotional weight of a role in a comedy or a musical is far different from a drama and should be categorized differently.

As a show, the 89th Academy Awards was unremarkable. Host Jimmy Kimmel was affable, but bland. He’s no Billy Crystal, sigh.

A few highlights were:

  • Viola Davis’s acceptance speech
  • the bus of unsuspecting tourists mingling with celebrities
  • the way the La La Land cast handled the Best Picture fiasco at the end.

It was a great reminder that it’s just a bunch of regular fallible folks up there on that stage after all.

Why Him? is moronic

From the opening segment of a lewd FaceTime chat between the hero and his girlfriend, we know we are in for a silly, predictable, testosterone-driven movie.

By the time we glimpse the dead-moose sculpture immersed in its own urine that graces the home of tech millionaire Laird (James Franco – Spider Man), we know that the glass tank is going to break and that at least one of the characters will be soaked.

Being right is no fun at all.

Why Him? is trite, vulgar and so dumb, it might have been written by a gang of 10 year olds were it not for the insidious amount of unnecessary foul language.

Stuffing swear words into the gaps where the jokes should have gone — a tactic too often employed by current R-rated comedies — director John Hamburg and Ian Helfer have written a screenplay that’s amazingly weak and excruciatingly stupid.

Not only is Why Him? an uninventive re-hash of films like Father Of The Bride, it is a direct rip-off of Meet The Parents (which Mr. Hamburg co-wrote).

Ned and Barb (Bryan Cranston – Breaking Bad and Megan Mullally – Will & Grace) are hard-working, nice middle-class Midwestern parents of Stamford student Stephanie (Zoey Deutch – Vampire Academy).

Learning that Stephanie has a boyfriend they didn’t know about, Ned, Barb and young Ned-junior son Scotty (Griffin Gluck – Batman vs. Robin) arrive in Los Angeles over Christmas to ensure that all is well with their beloved daughter.

Forced to stay at Laird’s “Apple meets Heffner” estate, Stephanie’s parents are shocked to learn that their sweet daughter is in love with a foul-mouthed, ADD dolt who hates tedium as much as he disdains paper.

This is an important point because father Ned is all about paper; he owns a failing paper company. The inference is that Ned’s old-fashioned ways and values — honesty, frugality and simplicity — are as irrelevant as his paper company.

Further, the film glorifies Laird, whose crass inappropriateness and earnest buffoonery begin to win Barb and Scotty over. Laird represents a future that many of a certain generation don’t understand and are uncomfortable with.

What could have been a meaningful commentary about the generation gap becomes nothing more than a vehicle for cheap laughs.

The attempted homage to the Pink Panther movies is so belaboured by explanation that even the talented Keegan-Michael Key (as man servant Gustav) is unable to save it.

The filmmakers clearly don’t think much of their audience. Bereft of a single authentic moment or interaction (the romance is tepid and unbelievable from the start), Why Him? is a movie made by and for men.

(The sex scene where Ned’s daughter is on a desk under which he is crouching is disturbing on many levels.)

At the root of it, though, is a sombre look at the older generation’s discomfort — with technology, with tattoos, with sexual promiscuity and with a culture that embraces a lack of rules.

Franco has his goofy, charming moments and Cranston just can’t help being good in anything he does, but both of these powerhouses are going to look back and wonder “Why did I ever do Why Him?”

I give this movie 1 1/2 hearts out of five.

Review: Passengers

Would you spend your life alone if you were given a paradise?  This is the central question Passengers asks and you will find yourself contemplating the premise of this film long after you’ve seen it.

Jim Preston (Chris Pratt, Guardians Of The Galaxy) is awakened from his hibernation pod aboard the space ship Homestead II.

A mechanical engineer, he had paid the mega-corporation Homestead to be put to sleep for 90 years to be among the first 5,000 people to colonize a new planet.

For this privilege, once there, he will continue to pay 20 per cent of his wages to the company for the rest of his life.

Jim thinks this is a fair trade for a new start in a new world. He knows that engineers will be needed and he is eager to feel useful as he bemoans that nothing is fixed any more, it’s just replaced.

The wrench in his plan occurs when the ship hits a large asteroid and systems begin to malfunction.

Jim’s pod opens, he is greeted by a hologram and transported through the complete wake-up phase of his trip.

He is taken to his quarters where he deliberates which outfit to wear as he prepares for his reintroduction session and to meet his fellow passengers and crew.

He is surprised when he sees no other people in the halls nor in the digitized presentation room.

Jim’s panic increases when he goes to an information kiosk and learns that he has woken up 90 years too soon. In desperation, he tries to send a message to Earth only to learn that it will take it 30 years to reach Earth and an additional 35 years to receive a reply.

Jim is alone, totally and utterly alone.

Fortunately, the ship’s lounge is manned by an android, Arthur (Michael Sheen, Nocturnal Animals). Given that Arthur is presumably the only human-like entity on board the ship, Jim finds he starts spending an inordinate amount of time hanging out at the bar.

Jim tries everything he can think of to break into the flight deck, but everything is locked down. He can’t even get a fancy coffee for himself as the cafeteria kiosk demands a “gold level” passenger status and Jim is just a regular passenger.

Deciding that he can call the shots now, Jim breaks into a deluxe penthouse suite and starts living it up. He grows a Castaway-style beard, gets paunchy and descends into deep depression.

His loneliness reaches a point where he contemplates suicide. When he quite literally backs away taking his own life, he spies one of the passengers asleep in her pod – Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence, The Hunger Games).

Jim searches her profile and learns that she is a writer who planned to travel to Homestead 2, live there for a year and travel back to earth to write about it. She will be the first person to make such a voyage and return.

Jim is tormented by loneliness and finally decides to awaken Aurora, convinced she is the perfect partner for him. The rest is a love and survival story that I’m not going to spoil here.

Despite several flaws in the story, script writing and cinematography, three things make Passengers an enjoyable watch: the premise, the ship itself and three talented actors. 

Chris Pratt, while lovely to look at, was perhaps not the best choice to play the tortured Jim. He is at his best playing a wise-cracking smart ass and this takes away from what could have potentially been a really good study in human selfishness.

Jennifer Lawrence shines as Aurora. She’s feisty, sexy and smart and when she rages at Jim, we bloody well believe her.

Michael Sheen is excellent as Arthur the affable android and is given some of the best dialogue in the sparsely worded script.

Laurence Fishburne (The Matrix) as Gus Mancuso is not at his best in this role and there were moments when his acting chops failed so horribly, it felt like a day-time soap opera.

There were ample opportunities for some amazing CGI, but this also failed with the exception of the scene where the gravity on the ship malfunctions while Aurora is swimming in the pool - a magical cinematic moment.

Sometimes the whole is less than the sum of its parts. That said, there is a moral dilemma at the core of this film that will give you pause to ponder – if put in his shoes, what would you have done?

I give this film 3 out of 5 hearts.

More Kim's Flick Pics articles

About the Author

Kim Foreman-Rhindress is a graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City and London Western Conservatory of music for piano and voice. 

Kim has been performing in theatre and film for over 30 years in Canada, NYC, Palm Beach, Los Angeles, and the Netherlands. She has written several plays which have been produced in Canada and the U.S., and is the founder of Kelowna Voice Lab - helping people find their voice, be it singing or acting. 

A working musician, she performs regularly in Kelowna with her husband, Jim Rhindress, in an acoustic duo Smitten, and with her vintage trio Kitsch 'n Sync.  

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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