Logan

A new movie review from The Movie Snob.

Logan  (A-).  Yes, this is an awfully high grade to give a rated-R comic-book movie with all sorts of severed heads and spurting arteries and such.  But what can I say?  I thought this movie was excellent.  Hugh Jackman (Scoop) returns for his millionth turn as Wolverine, the irascible, indestructible mutant with the retractable claws.  Only now he’s not feeling so indestructible.  The year is 2029, and he is old and sick and not regenerating like he used to.  He’s lying low somewhere near the U.S.-Mexico border taking care of Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart, Excalibur), who is not only old and sick but also having seizures that cause all sorts of mayhem for everyone around him because of his uncontrolled psychic powers.  All the other mutants we’ve come to know and love in the other X-Men movies are apparently dead, and no new mutants have been born in many years.  Wolverine is just trying to scrape together enough money in his job as a limo driver so he can buy a boat and sail out to sea with Professor Xavier (thereby saving mankind from the effects of Xavier’s seizures, I think).  Then everything goes sideways when a desperate woman finds Wolverine and begs him to transport a young girl to Canada—a girl with mutantly powers awfully reminiscent of Wolverine’s.  Of course, there are bad guys hot on her trail, and the movie quickly turns into a quasi-remake of Children of Men (which is not a bad movie to borrow from, if you’re going to borrow).  Despite all the crazy, bloody fight scenes, the movie really worked for me as a meditation on mortality and the meaning of family.  And newcomer Dafne Keen does a nice job as the mysterious little girl with anger-management issues.

P.S. I forgot to mention this when I initially posted this review–I think this is the first time I have ever seen a movie in the United States that features Spanish subtitles.  Some of the movie was in Spanish, and those parts had no subtitles.  I wonder if those parts were subtitled in English in other showings?

Gaslight

The Movie Snob checks in with a new review of an old movie.

Gaslight  (B+).  This 1942 classic stars the beauteous Ingrid Bergman (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde) as Paula Alquist.  In the opening scene, we see a very young Paula being escorted away from the London townhome where she has just discovered the body of her murdered aunt (her guardian since birth).  Flash forward a few years, and Paula is living in Italy.  She has followed in her aunt’s footsteps by studying music and singing, but we learn she has just been swept off her feet by a debonair foreigner named Gregory Anton (Charles Boyer, Fanny).  Anton is strangely eager to move to London, and into the townhouse Paula inherited from her aunt.  And once they are ensconced there, Paula seems to start to lose her grip on her sanity, and Gregory becomes ever more controlling.  What is happening?  Straight-arrow Scotland Yard detective Brian Cameron (Joseph Cotten, The Third Man) senses something is amiss, but can he figure it out in time to help Paula?  I quite enjoyed this classic old noir.  Watch for a young Angela Lansbury (TV’s Murder, She Wrote) as a saucy housemaid.

Their Finest

From the desk of The Movie Snob.

Their Finest  (B+).  It doesn’t have the grabbiest title, but this picture by Danish director Lone Scherfig (An Education) is my favorite of the year so far.  The year is 1940, and Catrin Cole (Gemma Arterton, Quantum of Solace) has moved from Wales to London with her artist husband Ellis (Jack Huston, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies).  But his dour art isn’t selling, so Catrin gets a job as a screenwriter on a propaganda film about the evacuation of Dunkirk.  She clashes with the obnoxious head screenwriter Tom Buckley (Sam Claflin, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides), learns to massage the bruised ego of past-his-prime movie star Ambrose Hilliard (Bill Nighy, I Capture the Castle), and generally gets a crash course in the trials and tribulations of moviemaking.  Jeremy Irons (Appaloosa) pops up unexpectedly as a pompous war minister.  The sexism of the era is conveyed effectively without being overdone.  On the whole, I quite enjoyed the movie.

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

From the desk of The Movie Snob.

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night  (B-).  Somehow I missed this 2014 black & white foreign-language vampire flick during its original release, but happily a friend invited me to a special showing last night at the Alamo Drafthouse.  (Actually I tried to talk her into seeing Logan instead, but she wasn’t having it.  She’s been a big vampire fan ever since New Moon.)  It’s a weird movie, but interesting.  Our hero is some ordinary guy living in a bleak industrial town called Bad City.  His father is a junkie, and a drug dealer takes our hero’s beloved car because dad can’t pay his debts.  Then the drug dealer abuses a prostitute who works for him.  This draws the ire of our vampire (Sheila Vand, Argo), an ordinary-seeming woman who ghosts around town at night and can sprout fangs in a jiffy.  Later she menaces a little boy and takes his skateboard.  After that she meets our hero after he has gone to a costume party (as Dracula!), and instead of making a meal out of him she actually seems to start liking him.  But you’re never really sure if she’s eventually going to chomp on him or not; her affect is pretty flat.  More stuff happens after that, in a slow, moody, artsy kind of way.  It held my interest.

(I’m categorizing it as a foreign film because it’s in Farsi, but I have read that it was actually shot in California.  The director, Ana Lily Amirpour, is Iranian-American.)

This was my first trip to an Alamo Drafthouse, and it was a pretty interesting experience.  We got to our theater pretty early, and before getting to the real previews they showed a bunch of film clips and trailers from cheesy old horror movies back-to-back.  It was fine to set the mood, I guess, but it made conversation difficult.  I got food, which I seldom do at movie theaters, and got a mediocre Royale Burger with Cheese and some cold fries out of the deal.  The seats were comfy, though.

The Salesman

New from the desk of The Movie Snob.

The Salesman  (B-).  This is the new (Oscar©-nominated) movie by Iranian director Asghar Farhadi.  I liked his 2011 film A Separation, and I really liked his 2013 film The Past, so I was looking forward to The Salesman quite a bit.  Suffice to say, it is my least favorite of his films, but it’s still an interesting look at life in contemporary Iran.  Emad and Rana are a happily married couple who unexpectedly find themselves having to move in a hurry when their apartment building threatens to collapse.  A friend offers them a place, but it comes with some baggage—the previous tenant was a woman of doubtful virtue, and she has refused to come back and collect most of her stuff.  Short of options, Emad and Rana take the place.  Then someone—one of the previous tenant’s clients?—enters the apartment and attacks Rana.  Everyone agrees that going to the police would be pointless and would only expose Rana to a lot of painful scrutiny.  So Emad does his own sleuthing to try to find the culprit.  I just didn’t find the story as compelling as Farhadi’s previous films.  I may have missed some of Farhadi’s message because I am not familiar with the Arthur Miller play Death of a Salesman, which gives the movie its title and plays a significant role in the story.  Anyway, it’s worth seeing, but I encourage you to see The Past instead if your taste for subtitled Iranian films is limited.

Lion

From the desk of The Movie Snob.

Lion  (B).  Based on a true story!  In 1987, a little boy in a crowded Calcutta orphanage has the amazing good fortunate to be adopted by a warm, loving Australian couple.  Twenty years later, Saroo seems to be doing great–he’s studying for a career, and he has a bunch of good friends and a sweet girlfriend.  But there’s a worm in the apple: Saroo is not an orphan, and he knows it.  He had a mother, brother, and sister in a remote Indian village, but through a chance misfortune he got locked in a train car that took him to Calcutta—1600km away.  He didn’t speak the language spoken there, and he didn’t know his own mother’s name or, apparently, the correct name of their village.  So he ended up in the orphanage.  But now, all these years later, there’s a little something called Google Earth™ that might hold the key to finding his long-lost family.  This is a pretty good movie, but I’m not sure it deserves all the Oscar© hoopla it has gotten.  I can buy the best supporting actress nomination for Nicole Kidman (Paddington) as the long-suffering adoptive mom.  But I don’t see best picture, or even the best supporting actor nod for Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire) as the grown-up Saroo.  Rooney Mara (Side Effects) has virtually nothing to do as the girlfriend.  The kid who plays young Saroo is pretty amazing, though.

The Edge of Seventeen

From the desk of The Movie Snob.

The Edge of Seventeen  (B-).  This new tale of teen angst stars Hailee Steinfeld (Begin Again) as Nadine, a miserable and thoroughly unpleasant high-school student whose entire wardrobe seems to consist of barely-there skirts and shorts.  Nadine doesn’t get along with either her mom or her older brother.  To make matters worse, her only friend in the world starts dating said older brother, which only makes Nadine more miserable and, amazingly, even more unpleasant.  Really, Nadine is so obnoxious and filled with self-loathing that I found it very hard to empathize with her,  She seemed borderline mentally ill.  The movie’s bright spot is Nadine’s friendship with her history teacher, Mr. Bruner (Woody Harrelson, Management).  Bruner’s dryly sarcastic responses to Nadine’s various crises had the whole theater laughing out loud.  Basically, all the scenes involving Bruner are great, and the rest of the movie is so-so.  And please note that the R rating for language and sexual content is well deserved.