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?

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Jodorowsky’s Dune

Jodorowsky’s Dune (B+). This is quite an interesting documentary about an eccentric (if not totally bonkers) Chilean stage and film director who attempted to make a movie of the classic Frank Herbert science-fiction novel Dune. If I may briefly digress, I absolutely loved the novel Dune when I was a kid. Written in 1965, Dune is a space opera set in a far distant future in which humanity has settled into a quasi-feudal sort of imperial government, with various noble families jockeying for position and power within the Empire. The whole civilization runs on a spice called mélange, which gives its users longer lifespans and, more importantly, allows some gifted people to see the future (which is essential to space travel). The spice comes from only a single planet, a harsh desert world called Dune, whose main natural inhabitants are monstrous and voracious sandworms that grow to be a quarter-mile in length. The hero of the story is Paul Atreides, young heir to the throne of one of the noble houses, possessor of some unusual mental and physical abilities, and possibly a political revolutionary, religious messiah, or both. I read Dune several times as a kid, and I think I did an oral book report on it when I was in about the seventh grade.  My brother and I even had a board game based on the novel.

Anyway, David Lynch made a movie of Dune in the 1980s starring Kyle MacLachlan, Patrick Stewart, Sean Young, and Sting, and it is generally considered to be pretty terrible. I saw it back at the time, and I know I didn’t think it was very good. What I never knew was that a Chilean stage and film director named Alejandro Jodorowsky had already tried to make a movie of Dune (without actually reading the book himself) back in the mid-1970s. He is still alive today, in his mid-80s, and this movie consists mostly of interviews with him and with various art guys that he enlisted to draw up the storyboards and other supporting artwork so he could try to get a Hollywood backer for the project. For example, H.R. Giger, whose designs would later be used to such great effect in Alien, was one of Jodorowsky’s artists.   Jodorowsky tells lots of stories about the people that he got to commit (informally) to appearing in the movie: Orson Welles supposedly said he would play the evil and bloated Baron Harkonnen, Mick Jagger supposedly said he would play the evil and sensuous Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen, and none other than Salvador Dali supposedly said he would play the Emperor of the Universe (for $100,000 an hour, and on condition that a burning giraffe appear in his scenes). I don’t know about all that stuff, but it is apparently true that Jodorowsky and his team spent a lot of time and money putting together an immense book of storyboards and artwork to use in shopping the film around in Hollywood, and we see a lot of that artwork during the course of the movie. Jodorowsky says he wanted to make a film that would have the same effect on the viewer as LSD, and if he had gotten the necessary funding he might have succeeded. But the studios all passed on the opportunity, and the French fellow who had backed all the pre-production pulled the plug on the project. It’s a crazy story, and a fun one if you’re a fan of movies or a fan of Dune.

Excalibur

DVD review from The Movie Snob.

Excalibur  (B).  This was my first time to see this 1981 version of the legend of King Arthur.  I have to say, I thought it was pretty good.  The special effects were a little cheesy, as befits a movie of that era, but I thought the numerous battle scenes were generally well done.  Nowadays, directors so often fudge big battle scenes (or even little fight scenes) by editing them into a jumble of quick cuts so that you have no idea what is going on.  But there are no such shortcuts in Excalibur, and you get the feeling this is something like how battles were back in the day—clamorous and confusing affairs, with men staggering and stumbling about in their armor, and hacking and bludgeoning about almost blindly.  Director and co-writer John Boorman (Deliverance) crams the whole Arthurian legend, including some backstory about Arthur’s father Uther Pendragon, into 2 hours and 20 minutes.  I had heard the movie was pretty racy for its time, and there is a bit of sex and nudity.  What’s shocking is when you listen to the director’s commentary and find out one of the young ladies involved is his own daughter!  And it is a little gruesome in parts, so the R rating is even more fully justified.  The guy who plays Merlin (Nicol Williamson, Robin and Marian) is kind of a kick, seeming only about half serious most of the time.  Another fun aspect of the movie is seeing all the actors who went on to become famous, such as Liam Neeson (Wrath of the Titans), Patrick Stewart (X-Men: The Last Stand), Helen Mirren (The Queen), Ciaran Hinds (John Carter), and Gabriel Byrne (The Usual Suspects).  I enjoyed it.