Logan


Viewed – 21 March 2017  Cinema

It would be easy for me to write this off as just another Wolverine movie.  After all I didn’t entirely miss his (generally) absent status from X-Men Apocalypse, and well the character has been milked to death.  But from initial images showing a more grizzled, aged Wolverine and early positive hype I thought I’d give it a go.

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No question though, Hugh Jackman was born to play Logan/Wolverine.  He has all the grumpy but likeable personality perfect for such a tortured character.  This latest take see’s him departed from his X-Men colleagues sometime in the future when many of them are believed dead and all he has for company between trips away as a grumpy limo driver, is an aged, half senile Dr Xavier (a heart-breaking Patrick Stewart).  So along comes a Mexican woman and a mysterious girl (a star making Dafne Keen) who she wishes for Logan to transport across the border to a ‘safe haven’ known as Eden, where more people like her and Logan himself are seeking refuge.  On their heels is a scenery chewing villain (Boyd Holbrook) and a megalomaniac scientist (Richard E Grant).

Dafne KeenWhat surprised me was just how brutal this latest Wolverine movie is.  We get beheadings, vicious stabbings and dismembered limbs-a-plenty and it seriously doesn’t hold back.  Some of the violence and the general tone here is light-years away from what I’m used to seeing in a comic book movie and it really helped this spring to life … especially in brilliantly executed (pun intended) action sequences that are amongst the best in the genre.  Director James Mangold has delivered a confident and mature road movie that is held together by three strong central characters and their slowly developing bond that makes this much more meaningful and powerful than I could have expected.  This is one of the most intense and gripping comic book inspired movies I’ve seen in a long time and in the closing moments I can honestly say Jackman deserved an Oscar nod.  But we know that won’t happen for this sort of material, unless perhaps you happen to die in real life (ahem…Heath Ledger RIP).

Simply put – go see this movie.

Verdict:  5 /5

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Cop Car


Viewed – 27 October 2015  Online rental

Every now and then a movie comes along that really surprises.  This fairly low key and under-publicised Kevin Bacon vehicle (no pun intended) follows two run-away ten year old boys who stumble upon a seemingly abandoned police squad car.  With nobody else around, the two troublesome friends decide to take it for a joy ride, unaware that shady Sherriff Kevin Bacon is not far away and hell bent on getting his transport back.

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With the dusty baron wasteland of what looked like Arizona as it’s setting, this is a great idea for a simple, straight forward cat and mouse thriller.  Bacon as expected is on fine form; fresh from his excellent turn in now defunct TV series The Following, he’s lost none of that presence that has always made him so watchable.  Once again here he handles a creepy, dangerous character with ease.  The two young actors playing the boys (James Freedson-Jackson & Hays Wellford) were also convincing, despite moments of alarming stupidity (let’s play with a loaded rifle!).  It’s difficult to go into this without giving away several twists and surprises, so I’ll conclude by saying – director Jon Watts has filled this simple but effective movie with nail biting situations, solid performances and a swift pace, peppered with some well implemented dark humour.

A welcome breath of fresh air in an increasingly unimaginative medium.  Well worth checking out.

Verdict:  4 /5

Midnight Run


Viewed – 21 April 2015  Blu-ray

After reading a review of this re-issue of an acclaimed comedy thriller of the 80’s I recalled seeing some of it late night on TV and always wanted to watching it fully.  It follows the story of a bounty hunter / ex-cop Jack Walsh (Robert DeNiro) given the task of tracking down an accountant for the mob ‘the duke’ who has jumped bail and is worth a whole lot of money.  The FBI want this guy as does the Mafia, and so on a trip from New York to LA it’s Jack’s job to keep him (and himself) alive.

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Very much in the vein of similar eighties comedy thrillers like Beverly Hills Cop, this blends thrills and comedy well, along with a sharp, swear-heavy script that bounces off the page.  The squabbling and bickering between DeNiro’s wise-cracking bounty hunter and Charles Grodin’s dead-pan ‘the duke’ forms the heart of this highly entertaining ‘caper’ road-movie.  Granted sometimes it is a bit too heavy on the humour and you never really feel anyone is in particular danger, but with decent support from genre regulars John Ashton & Joe Pantoliano as well as well-rounded and fascinating characterisation for the principal leads (their relationship gradually and believably forming into friendship) – this is one 80’s movie that hasn’t aged quite as badly as others and makes for a genuine cult classic.

Sadly, the Blu-ray is a mixed bag.  The image quality is decent for an eighties movie and colours and fine detail mostly impress throughout.  The soundtrack though, in a choice of 2.0 stereo or 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio has occasional lip-sync issues that let down what is otherwise a crisp and punchy presentation.  Extras consist of several new interviews, but no DeNiro (!) and a lack of a commentary means this isn’t exactly a home run.

Verdict:

(the movie)  4 /5

(the Blu-ray)  3 /5

Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas


Viewed – 01 May 2014  Netflix 

There was something about this movie upon it’s release and over the years that has always made me stay away from it.  The bizarre appearance of Hollywood actor Johnny Depp as famed drug addict / journalist Hunter S. Thompson, the always cautionary ‘unfilmable novel’ cliché and then the combination of drugs and Terry Gilliam – one of the more out-there, albeit skilled surrealist directors around.  It seemed a bad combination.  Yet now with this challenge and as a long time admirer of the former Monty Python member, who still for me made the best time travel movie ever conceived (Twelve Monkeys) – this finally had to be worth a look, right?

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Depp as mentioned plays Thompson, going under various names in a three day drug fuelled road trip to and through and back again from Las Vegas along with his attorney (Benicio Del Toro) to report on a motor cross race in the desert in 1971.  With a back drop of the Vietnam war, president Nixon and the hippy counter culture … this had plenty going on, but finding much entertainment in it was a struggle.  This was Gilliam on acid, and for a director who already is Tim Burton on acid – that’s saying something!  Hallucinations, a wealth of oddball characters, drugs, gambling, more drugs and basically two hours watching two utterly risible people not quite kill themselves (or anyone else they come across).  Depp’s performance is like a Tex Avery cartoon, over the top jittery, with a one tone drawl (not helped by the cigarette filter permanently hanging out of his mouth) and is loosely aided by an animalistic, borderline psychotic Del Toro.  Cameos by the likes of Cameron Diaz, Christina Ricci and a nearly unrecognisable Toby Maguire prove fun … and a soundtrack covering (amongst others) classic hits from The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan turn out to be the biggest plus of this total head-f**k of an experience.  By the end credits I actually felt like I’d been on some sort of trip … and not a particularly good one.

Gilliam’s direction is technically impressive and truly creates the feeling of a doped out, paranoid and trippy journey complete with unconventional camera angles and bizarre effects work (hotel guests turn into reptiles and eat each other, or have an orgy – I couldn’t be sure) … so hat’s off to him for that, but I watch movies either to be entertained or to learn something … and I didn’t get much of either out of this.

Verdict:  2 /5