Darke Reviews | Logan ( 2017)

In yet another movie this year, I get to go “17 Years ago…” we were introduced to this world and this character. Things really haven’t changed much in a lot of respects. When Jackman was cast no one wanted him in the fan community. He’s too tall. He’s not stocky enough. Cast Glen Danzig, were just some of the many things being said. Granted the only casting at the time that anyone really felt was right was Patrick Stewart as Professor X, at a spry 60 taking the role of the iconic character. Granted since 1987 when Star Trek: The Next Generation aired, he instantly made the top of everyone’s who to cast list. Now, we are hard pressed to think of anyone but these two in these roles. I mean look at this opening.

 

Sure there have been calls for Jackman to retire after the past three movies. People have been getting tired of Wolverine and the X-men which the movies had become for a bit. The first spin off movie X:Men Origins Wolverine was absolute garbage which didn’t help.  Too few people saw the redeeming The Wolverine in 2013, or its even better directors cut on DVD. Then there were rumors of “Old Man Logan” being adapted, but nary a still or production debacle to make the waves. Then the trailer was released and we realized we may have something good.

A tired Logan, an aging Charles and a world that wasn’t quite as familiar. Oh and one of my favourite characters – X-23, which came as a complete and happy surprise to most people. When that trailer dropped people lost their minds “is that X-23?” then they confirmed it…and the hype train grew to the tones of Johnny Cash.

So should you board the hype train?

Let us discuss the writing. 3 Writer rule – revoked for this one. Scott Frank (The Wolverine, The Lookout, Get Shorty) gets a screenplay credit with Michael Green a TV (The River, American Gods, Kings) producer who has his own share of screenplay listings (Green Lantern, Alien: Covenant, Blade Runner 2049). Additionally director James Mangold (The Wolverine, 3:10 to Yuma, Walk the Line) has both story and screenplay ties. So Mangold comes up with the story he wants to tell and then the others are brought in for polish and adjustment. Based on what I saw, probably by Mangold himself as there doesn’t seem to be significant tonal or story shifts as the movie progresses. Significant ones. There are a few beats, a few story elements which seem to clash with the overall film and some near unnecessary third act exposition but it doesn’t detract from the overall story being told.

It is a good story. One we haven’t seen a hero movie do before, or at least not in awhile. I was literally commenting to my sister the other day – “When is Hollywood going to remember bigger isn’t better with the bad guys? That not every plot has to be an end of the world. Sometimes smaller is better.” You see if the stakes get too high and you stop caring. You know they won’t destroy the world. You can’t have a sequel that way. Mangold apparently knew this and rather than a bombastic end of world apocalypse, he tells a smaller story. A story about people, about life, death, and hope – just with the lens and world view of a tired, bitter old mutant who has seen and done too much.

The story is good and so is the direction. I found no camera angle wasted. No colour palette bled. Every beat existed for a reason that I could tell. Some last a few too long, true. Some will complain about the pacing not being as quick as others. That’s the point. The director wants you to spend time with the characters, remember them, and feel them again as you did back in 2000. He wants you to learn about Laura in her own way through careful interaction that is well crafted and bothers to show who and what she is without exposition.

The acting is spot on from our two stars we know. Jackman didn’t phone this in and Stewart looked like he was having the time of his life, despite what I would guess for both of them involved at least 3 hours in the make up chair each day. Jackman lets his characters age show in every moment. Stewart steals the show as a 90 year old Xavier in every bloody scene he is in, but there’s quiet competition from Dafne Keen (The Refugees) as Laura aka X-23. The 12 year old (11 at filming) Spanish actress is once again why I will say child actors can be just fine – bad direction and bad scripts are the problems (sometimes). She gets added to the list of young actresses who really make a mark in a good film. I don’t know if she did her own stunts, but if she did I am even more impressed.

I’d like to say the villains of the piece leave as much a mark but in what is quickly becoming tradition – they don’t. I think that is ok in this case as they are but a catalyst for the story not the be all and end all of the story. Richard Grant’s (Bram Stokers Dracula, Dig) Dr. Rice is passable just as Boyd Holbrook’s (Narco’s, Gone Girl) Pierce. Pierce is a nice change of pace for a villain though as he does show intelligence, cunning, and actually using his brain. I liked him, but will quickly forget him. That’s ok. Again, as it’s worth repeating the story here is only driven forward by the villains but the focus is where it should be – Logan, Laura, Charles.

On to the technicals? Have you heard the phrase “a hard R” before? Ok short version it means that they are going for an R Rating that really can’t be disputed. I think they went for a soft NC-17 just to get the R rating.  Every F— they couldn’t use in all the other movies were saved up here. Oh and a vicious and violent Wolverine movie that was being asked for. Your wish is bloody granted! Heavy emphasis on bloody. Not gory though, just brutal and ferocious as the character deserves – both of them. Yes, if you’ve seen the trailers Laura is just as violent and you will love the movie more for it. The make up effects are good and a lot of practical to cherish.

TL;DR

 

The movie deserves the praise it is getting from audiences and critics alike. It is absolutely savage in its many, many take downs. The action is clean (ish). The story good. The movie lets you breath. It’s shot really well. The movie proves Fox is getting it as with half the budget of Civil War, Batman v Superman, Amazing Spider Man, Man of Steel, Ultron, Dark Knight Rises – they made a far better movie. It isn’t some over the top send off for beloved characters, but instead a tighter picture with a lot of restraint.

It should remind you of a good western; the movie hits you over the head with it a few times in case it doesn’t. It also goes on to prove GRITTY and REALISTIC doesn’t mean grey, bland, dirty. You can have colour AND grit. Pay attention to that lesson and that lesson alone.

While I haven’t yet watched Movie Bob’s review, I agree with his title: Don’t try to make this again. It worked for a variety of factors, not the least of which was 17 years of investment. If you feel the need to emulate it learn how to focus on the characters – not bigger/badder – XTREME (missing “e” intended).

Logan is the movie that Wolverine deserved. Logan is the movie we’ve been wanting

Should you see it?

Yes. Please. Let this make all the money this month. Let this make all the money this part of the year. Let them know they were right to make it this way.

Are you buyi-

Yes. Next question.

Will you see it again?

If I can talk folks into seeing it with me? Yes.

Can I take the kids?

Depends – did you think Deadpool was watchable for them? Thats the benchmark. It is good ol fashioned violence, blood, and foul language. Even Robocop would be impressed.

FYI – this would have been PG-13 in the 80’s….maybe an R. Maybe.

Last thoughts?

Guys, I gotta tell you this movie is the best one I have seen this year. I will be surprised if it doesn’t stay in my top 5 through the year. It made me feel something more than once and for a superhero movie – that is saying something.

Darke Reviews | X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)

I am a child of the 80’s, which means I was adopted by the 90’s and accepted by the new millennium. This means I had the blessing to enjoy the 1992 X-Men Cartoon. How can you not get hyped from this?

I was working in a comic-shop when Wolverine had the Adamantium ripped from his body. I was reading the Secret Wars, saw the Beyonder, Boom Boom, and Angel becoming Archangel all within my lifetime. While I am not as versed as many geeks on all the in’s and out’s and arcs of all the characters; I know most of them. I have my favourites, such as Kitty Pryde (thank you Pryde of the X-Men), Majik, Nightcrawler, Gambit, etc. Never got on the Wolverine band wagon. I’ve watched every X-Men movie in the theatre since 2000. I know the differences between the theatrical arcs, the comic arcs, and the animated arcs and can judge them safely and fairly independently.

How did we land on this one?

Bryan Singer, who gave us the original two X-Men films and the last one, returns to the directors chair and does his best to give each of the characters time. His choice to give each character development time and try to spend a few precious moments with each of the mains. It’s a trend of his and serves him well through this one, but not perfectly. I partially blame this on the four writers involved, which means this movie does hit the Rule of Three. Each writer has experience in the franchise, from Singer himself, Michael Dougherty (Trick R Treat, X-2), Dan Harris (X-2, Superman Returns), and Simon Kinberg (X-3, Fantastic 4). When I consider this and the sordid and combined history it explains a lot. Plot wise, the movie is a bit of a hot mess. It’s a little over the place, doesn’t have focus, and really should have been two movies to give everyone an appropriate level of development. There *is* development of characters, but mostly focused on the new ones that have to be introduced – of which there are (too?) many.

It makes sense though as we have had two full movies prior to get to know Magneto, Charles, Beast, and Mystique.  We get the beautifully timed return of cinema favorite Evan Peters turn as Peter Maximoff, aka Quicksilver who had the best and most memorable moment from the last film.  We are introduced now to those who will be expected to carry us forward into the next generation of movies for this franchise. Sophie (Game of Thrones) Turner as Jean Grey, Tye (Scouts Guide to the Apocalypse) Sheridan as Scott “Cyclops” Summers, Kodi (Let Me In) Smit-McPhee as Kurt “Nightcrawler” Wagner, and Alexandra Shipp as Ororo “Storm” Munroe. Each one of these young(er) actors does really good with the time they have on screen to give you the iconic characters we know and love; but at an earlier stage of their lives. I did easily see the people they would become in the people they displayed in this film.

A film like this is only as good as it’s villains and for that we go to Oscar (Poe from Force Awakens) Isaac as En Sabah Nur, best known to readers as Apocalypse. He does better than he has any right to as the legendary character. Though this is one of the points the script and direction fail. The actor delivers, but the other two elements fail him, giving so little to work with and so little ability to really “Act” when not being the exposition fairy. Which leads to another one of the problems as there is next to no development or even real idea of the secondary characters who were so painfully underused I wonder why they bothered to have them other than to say they did. The roles were well cast, but not utilized to full potential.

From a technical perspective, I am going to jump on my editors horse again. Hold. A. Shot. Learn it. You don’t need to cut every 12.5 seconds to keep it engaging. You don’t need to have sudden painful shifts to other locations for yet another introduction. You don’t need to have second unit returning to a single location shot, with actors clearly looking posed, that it takes you from the movie. There are a few beats like that in the film, they may be funny, they may just be confusing, but they change the tone and undermine rather than underscore the emotion of a beat you are trying to establish otherwise. Beyond the editing and camera work, the Make Up was top notch. He was *not* Ivan Ooze. 10 points to be struck from the Publicist House for using an unfinished effects shot in a PR piece making an otherwise blue character look silly. The CG was CG, but this had to be larger than life and most of what could have been practical is not feasible to even consider trying to be practical. It does suffer from pacing issues, and I have a sense studio interference played a hand in some scenes being added or kept.

 

TL:DR?

It’s good! I enjoyed it. Much like I said about Civil War being an antithesis to Batman v Superman, this has many of the same characteristics. It has some flaws, but the whole piece when put together created an enjoyable mess. There were familiar characters with new faces, comfortable characters with old faces; and that is what makes this movie work. The characters we know and love were put on screen again. Not just on screen, but *right*. These very clearly were our modern mythology given flesh. We have our iconic legends with 5o+ years displayed as they should be , but in a way we haven’t really seen.

The action is solid. The acting is solid. It’s just a good, fun, popcorn movie. The movie earns it’s PG-13 rating though. There’s more violence here than I have seen in *any* X-film in the past sixteen years. This isn’t a bad thing, it reminds me of my 80’s movies a bit.

Do you Recommend it?

Yes. It’s good. You won’t get what you did out of Civil War here, but you shouldn’t expect to.

Will you buy it when it comes out on Blu Ray?

Absolutely.

Should I stay to the end of the credits?

Only if you know your characters, otherwise meh.

 

Trailers in the Darke| X-Men: Apocalypse

I am literally bouncing in my seat watching this.

 

  • Archangel – looks…ok
  • Jubiliee
  • Mohawk Storm – looks incredible
  • Nightcrawler
  • APOCALYPSE looks better than I thought he would.

Also the final shot…..Yeah. this needs to be out already

Darke Reviews | X-Men Days of Future Past (2014)

I have to admit writing this I am a bit conflicted. I have not settled on an emotion right now as I start. I made it known at work today I was going in with fairly low expectations. I had a gut feeling from the way the marketing went. Too much product placement ads set my nerves on edge. It feels like the producers are trying too hard, especially when it’s something like Carls Jr. It creates a disconnect with me that I find unnerving and makes me doubt their faith in the movie on its own merits.

I think the other reason I am conflicted now is that I didn’t get the movie I thought I would. This is *not* a bad thing. It means I underestimated the film.

The movie returns original X-men and X-2 director Bryan Singer to the franchise. If you are not familiar with his best bodies of work, please look to the magnificent Usual Suspects and Apt Pupil. Despite it’s many sins he also gave us Superman Returns. What do all of these films have in common, along with the first two X movies? Characters. They focus on the characters, sometimes at the sacrifice of a logical story. He brings you into the characters and really makes you get people you shouldn’t and helps bring perspective to everyones world.

The story this time has a three writer issue and the rule applies. It shows. Jane Goldman (Stardust, First Glass, Kick-Ass) has her sensibilities in film clearly shown. Simon Kingberg (X3, Jumper, XXX State of the Union) shows his as well – which may explain the weakest aspects of the movie. Matthew Vaughn, director of First Class, also has a writing credit who also has credits on Stardust and Kick Ass. His appreciation for the characters and the ‘verse that he created. Respect is given to history and with a lot of little nods to both comic and animated history through out.

The story has issues though. It’s pacing is off as hell. It runs over two hours and sometimes feels it. It falls prey to too many locations and too many events it wants to include. It was a fear I had from seeing the trailers, so I will admit I may be judging harshly here. It tries to do too much and doesn’t quite nail it. It tries to tie up too many loose ends from *all* the other films and only gets half way to the finish line. It does a fantastic job where it can, but the places where story fails – wow. I give you this warning, it will also be in the bottom – DO NOT THINK TOO HARD! By all the powers that be do not think too hard on any aspect of the movie. It falls apart. I think I will lay that on Kinsberg as the weakest writer in the bunch and well if you think about the McGuffin at all or can do basic math..yeah. Ugh

So what does work? The actors. They own. They sell it with all they have and aren’t phoning it in at all. McAvoy and Stewart play Xavier at different stages of life and both sell the life they’ve lived. I thought I would be more annoyed with McAvoy’s Xavier, but I understood. I appreciated it and it helped. Fassbender and McKellen also play young and old fantastically well. You can see the man that was and the man that is. You can see the man that we saw in the other films and where he’d come from. Fassbender has more charisma than should be legal in a man when he’s on screen and we thank him for it.

Jackman returns to the role he was apparently born to play. I do hope this will be one of his last outings and let someone else take up screen time. I can’t say he does bad here, but its too easy for him and while he plays all he needs to and it works, its just there. Apparently for Jennifer Lawrence, two oscar nominations and one Oscar win get you more screen time and development. I see a transition from focus on Wolverine to Mystique and I have to admit it pleases me. She, of course is fantastic. While not someone I’d want my daughter looking up to, if I could ever have one, she’s got aspects worth looking up to. She’s a good actress with a good and complex character.

Peter Dinklage dominates every scene in which he has a speaking line. This is no surprise to Game of Thrones fans. Just like the other characters, while all of them are somewhat thin, the development they do get is enough to make him decently complex and relatable. He works and I believe it’s Dinklage as to why.

The future sequences give us a handful of our favourite mutants doing what they do and as per my rules no spoilers. I was stupidly ecstatic to see Blink though. Just a geek girl thing.

From a technical aspect, wow. Overall nice work. Some effects are rough. Rougher than they should be, but when they do work, WOW. I would point to raw entertainment whenever a speedster I didn’t expect to like was on screen. Also, they BUILT A SENTINEL. There was a real, physical sentinel that was built. Brilliant choice. Editing, well, again it runs longer than it shoud. I do not think 3D will add anything so no need for the extra ticket price.

Alright, TL;DR?

The movie still leaves me conflicted. I think its ok, a good character study. If I think too hard most of it falls apart. It had moments of entertainment, but not enough. The entire movie is heavy. Not dark, just heavy. There is no where near the fun or levity of some previous installments in the franchise. It does one thing I can’t say without spoilers, but it made me happy beyond words.

Overall, if you were going to see it nothing I say will stop you. Enjoy.

If you weren’t planning on it, you don’t need your mind changed. This certainly will only reinforce your decisions.

If you were on the fence, see it, but its absolute matinee.

I am seeing it tomorrow with another friend, hopefully I can have ANY emotion on this one after I am done, but I don’t think so. Stay for the end of the credits for your tease to the next movie.

Next week, I am watching the Mistress of all Evil. Maleficent.

Darke Reviews | The Wolverine (2013)

First, I need to say this is better than X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Second, I have to say that comparison is like saying a tonsillectomy is less invasive than a heart and lung transplant. The Wolverine does largely wash away the horrible memories of the first outing and its leaked work print. I think that Fox has learned from last time and stopped interfering as much (IE – redecorating a set over a weekend without telling the director) and hired a competent director (someone not named Gavin Hood).

This time our director is James Mangold, who in his previous outings such as Identity, Walk the Line and the fantastic remake of 3:10 to Yuma, shows us he understands how to tell a movie about characters and sell it. He grasps the concept of drama and melodrama and even how to have fun in a movie, like he shows in Knight and Day. While not necessarily a visionary director, he is an experienced one that still isn’t a “safe” choice. That said, his direction isn’t perfect and the movie suffers slightly in the pacing and editorial departments with a running time just over 2 hours that you do feel.

The writing is solid through the film, though it does bear the three writers issue. Many elements are telegraphed and the romance, while somewhat accurate to the comics for a change, feels far more forced than it should. Between an uncomfortable romance and something I can almost say looks like a love triangle between the living it feels awkward at times. I am not sure who should be into who. Then there is the actual love triangle between a man, a woman and a nightmare. No, I am not kidding. Yes, I am embellishing, but only a bit. The nightmare sequences while interesting at first become overwrought and unwanted the longer the film goes and you are hoping for resolution of them much sooner than we get. While the dialogue is solid, the plot comes across clunky and forced more often than it should.

What of our actors? Well, I am glad you asked. Hugh Jackman is back in shape and the movie loves to show that off. I am glad the movie loved to show it off. Oh he played Wolverine well again, but with I think his 6th performance and a 7th on the way, I think he has this role down. I am a little bothered by his lack of knowing Japanese, which is an aspect to Logan I enjoyed in the comics, but this Wolverines timeline is different so I move on. He does play the tortured soul and Ronin without going totally Nolan with it and it makes me happy. I don’t need my superheroes to be completely mopey and depressed all the time, I really would prefer them to be superhuman, not human.

The movie also introduces us to several new talents to the American scene with Tao Okamoto as Mariko who has, according to IMDB, never acted before. It doesn’t show much and she performs better than the entire cast of X-Men Origins- Wolverine. Another new comer to film Rila Fukushima, playing the candy apple red haired Yukio. Her character definitely helps to drive the plot forward and is generally interesting to watch on screen. Her performance, though at times feeling awkward, does add more life to the film than X-men 3 had in its entirety.

FX? Well, they are hit and miss. Some look far better than others. The sets are
gorgeous and minus the train sequence authentic looking. The camera work is nearly solid, there’s at least one fight sequence where I believed the camera man was in the middle of a grand mal seizure and the director wanted the shot so bad he didn’t call cut. Beyond that, not much on the shaky cam. The healing/blade effects are hundreds of times better than the last film and the cuts, with one or two exceptions are not painful to watch.

So where does that leave us? TL;DR!

Overall the movie is solid, not the best thing this summer, not the worst this summer. It is at the moment the best of the comic book movies to come out so far since May, but Kick Ass 2 is coming so it may lose the crown quick. It’s slightly better than a meh, but I can’t bring myself to say it’s great. It is…”Good enough.”

Matinee it if you weren’t sure but are curious.
If you were a fan and dying to see it, full price and I don’t think you will be disappointed.

Fox has apparently also taken the Marvel route and decided to use this movie to launch the next film through the end credits sequence. I promise spoiler free as always, but the two cameos in the credits are a joy to behold.