Tagged: Hugh Jackman

John Ostrander: Lost Vision

I don’t always get around to seeing movies that I want to see while they’re in the theaters. I prefer seeing movies first in the theater and preferably in IMAX. I love the big screen and I think that’s how they were meant to be seen. I don’t mind seeing it later on the small screen, especially if I still have the memory of seeing the large-scale version.

Sometimes, for one reason or another, I just don’t get around to getting to the movie theater in time to catch the feature. Logan was one of those films.

As you already probably know, Logan is the last film that Hugh Jackman will make playing Wolverine. It’s a part that made him a star and that he basically owns. This time it’s set in the not too distant future of 2029 and things have not gone well for the mutant population. (Spoiler alert: if you haven’t seen the film and want to, best stop reading now or you may learn more than you want to.) By inference, we learn that there are almost no mutants left and none have been born in the past 25 years. There was some kind of unspecified disaster around the school in Westchester NY several years back.

Logan is now keeping it on the down low near the Mexican border as a driver/bodyguard. He drinks a lot and he’s sick; his mutant healing factor is fading and the adamantium that laces his bones (and claws) is poisoning him. He’s also taking care of Professor X, Charles Xavier (played once again by Patrick Stewart, who has said this is also his last go-round with the X-Men), who is also ailing. The man with the most powerful brain in the world is losing control of it; every once in a while, he has seizures that wreak havoc on everyone near him.

Into Logan’s and Professor X’s life comes an 11-year-old girl named Laura who is a mutant, who may have been created in a lab where she was dubbed X-23. She also has retractable claws, rage issues, and a violent nature. Sound like anyone we know? She is Logan’s “daughter” in that his DNA was used to create her.

The movie is a road picture, one in which Logan, Laura, and Professor X are chased as they try to find their way to a possible haven. The film is very violent (having earned an R rating) and bleak. Very bleak.

Professor X founded the X-Men in the belief, the hope, that mutants and normal humans could find a way to live together. His frenemy, Magneto, didn’t think they could and his path was more violent. He saw humans and mutants as being at war.

Evidently, Magneto was right. That appears to be the premise of Logan – very few mutants are left and the ones that exist are being hunted. Xavier was wrong.

That’s also been the premise of more than a few X-Men comics that touch on the future. I don’t recall seeing one such future where Professor X’s vision came true. I will admit, I find that a bit depressing. It seems to me to undercut some of the basic premise of the X-Men – that there is hope that all these different types of people can live together. The X-Men have been stand-ins for so many different persecuted minorities. Xavier’s dream, his vision, has always held out hope to me that our differences can be overcome, however tough the battle.

That’s not what Logan seems to say.

I don’t know if I have the right to gripe. My career seems to be about anti-heroes and bleak characters and bad times; it’s how I make my living. I can certainly see the allure in taking that attitude in Logan; it feels closer to life as we see it these days. More and more so all the time. But maybe that’s why we need a little more hope.

This is not to say that Logan is a badly made film; far from it. It’s not simply violent; it’s intelligent and well written and has wonderful performances. In the blu-ray pack that I bought, I had a chance to experience it in black and white. They call it Logan Noir and it has the feel of noir films of old. I was very impressed.

I was also a little saddened. It’s hard to watch a dream die, especially one that was meant to give us hope. These days, I think we need all the hope we can get.

Mindy Newell: “Flash” Dance

I grew up on Broadway musicals. Once upon a time when going to see a show on Broadway didn’t cost you your mortgage plus the life of your first-born, my mom and dad were avid theatergoers. They saw the original production of South Pacific with Mary Martin and Ezio Pinza, the original production of Camelot with Richard Burton and Julie Andrews and Robert Goulet, and the original production of The King and I with Gertrude Lawrence and a then little-known Yul Brynner.

When they were still dating they went into town to see Oklahoma! Over the years they saw Carousel, and Brigadoon, and Rex Harrison and Julie Andrews in My Fair Lady, and Zero Mostel in Fiddler on the Roof, and Carol Channing in Hello, Dolly!, and the original West Side Story with Carol Lawrence and Larry Kert. My father fell asleep at Cats and my mother said she had a hard time staying awake herself.

Our stereo console was filled with “original Broadway cast” albums from all those shows and more – well, not Cats. When I was kid I would put on an album of, say, South Pacific and pretend I was Mary Martin washing that man out of my hair – oh, and I still do that in the shower some times:

“When a man don’t understand you, When you fly on separate beams,

 “Waste no time, Make a change,

 “Ride that man right off your range. Rub him out of your roll call,

 “And drum him out of your dreams.”

Yes, I am singing as I type.

My brother and I would put on West Side Story and dance around the living room, jumping on and off the chairs and the tables and sofas and getting into a lot of trouble. Later on, my mom often took Glenn and I into town to see revivals of these shows and others. In 1966 my father was laid up with a really bad ankle sprain, so I was privileged to go with my mom to see the one and only Ethel Merman in the revival of Annie Get Your Gun at Lincoln Center.

So it’s safe to say that I grew up on Broadway musicals. And love them. I have more Broadway soundtracks on my iTunes playlist than anything else – perhaps not cool, but fuck you and your Beyonce and Adele. One of my proudest and happiest moments and one that I will remember on my deathbed is when I played Peter Pan in Peter Pan at Camp Monroe. I have also played Ado Annie in Oklahoma and every single female role in Fiddler on the Roof except for Golde (Tevye’s wife, for those not in the know). I was Miss Mazeppa, bumping with my trumpet and in full Roman centurion regalia, in Gypsy.

So it’s safe to say that I grew up on Broadway musicals. And that it has continued into adulthood and to the present day. I became mesmerized by Hugh Jackman long before he was Wolverine when John and I went to see him as Curly in a revival of Oklahoma. And I became familiar with Melissa Benoist and Grant Gustin and Darren Criss long before any of them put on a superhero costume through my allegiance to Glee. And I knew Jesse L. Martin as Tom Collins from Rent, not to mention Victor Garber from Godspell, Sweeney Todd, and the 1990 revival of Damn Yankees.

And of course I knew John Barrowman from his days as Captain Jack on Doctor Who. But I never watched Smash, so I never caught on that Jeremy Jordan could sing and dance until last week…

…which was, of course, the crossover musical episode of The Flash called “Duet.”

It was wonderful.

It started in the epilogue of Supergirl on Monday night, in which Darren Criss pops up as the Music Meister, who does “something” to Kara which places her in a seemingly coma and then pops off to find the “fastest man alive.” Meanwhile, Kara wakes to find herself in a nightclub in what looks like the 1940s, dressed in a gorgeous gold beaded gown with a man telling her that she is the last-minute opening act. She steps through the curtains, and finds herself standing in front of a microphone and an audience. She opens her mouth and…to be continued.

And on The Flash the next night…

A young Barry Allen is watching Singin’ in the Rain with his mother, who is, uh, singing the praises of the musical. Then, in present time, Barry is watching Singin’ in the Rain and other classic musicals to soothe his tormented soul over his breakup with Iris. “Everything is better in song,” he says to Cisco, with whom he has moved in as a temporary(?) roommate.

Called to S.T.A.R. Labs because of a breach in the multiverse, they find Mon-El carrying a still-comatose Kara and J’onn Jonzz, who have come to Barry’s Earth because of the Music Meister’s claim to be looking for the Flash. The villain shows up, puts Barry into the same coma-like state as Kara, and suddenly Barry finds himself in the same nightclub as his Kryptonian friend… and she is up on stage, singing “Moon River.” (One of my favorites – from the not-musical Breakfast at Tiffany’s, in which Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly sings the lovely ballad, composed by Henry Mancini with lyrics by Johnny Mercer, while sitting on her fire escape and accompanying herself with a guitar.)

After Kara finishes her performance, the Music Meister pops in and tells them what’s going on – they are actually living this scenario psychically, or “in their own minds,” while their bodies lay undisturbed and inanimate in S.T.A.R. labs. Why the musical setting? Because both are deeply connected to the genre – Barry through his mom, and Kara through her love of The Wizard of Oz. They both must follow the plot of this mind-blowing musical to its end to recover and get back to the real world. Except: “If you die in here, you die out there.”

The episode is full of remarkable performances. Perhaps, at least for me, the best was the beautiful rendition of “More I Cannot Wish You” from Guys and Dolls sung by Jesse, Victor, and John. Grant’s interpretation of “Running Home to You” is heartbreaking and glorious. “Super Friend” is a treat to watch, with Grant and Melissa singing and hoofing and having a joyous time. Jeremy, Darren, John, and Carlos (Valdes) swing to “Put a Little Love in Your Heart.” And Melissa’s “Moon River” is, just, well, I just have to sing along…

 “You dream maker, you heartbreaker,

 “Wherever you’re going, I’m going your way.”

 “Two drifters, off to see the world.

 “There’s such a lot of world to see. We’re after the same rainbow’s end,”

 “Waiting ‘round the bend, my huckleberry friend,

 “Moon River, And me.”

Brava!!!!

Also… Encore!!!!

 

Marc Alan Fishman: What DC Could Learn from Logan

Having finally caught and absorbed James Mangold’s Logan, the finale to the OG X-films, I find myself hoping that the execs behind the soon-to-be-released Wonder Woman and Justice League movies were taking notes. A caveat: I’m going to attempt to keep my lens wide this week. While I don’t believe I’ll be spoiling anything more than people on your Facebook feed have blathered about, be nonetheless forewarned.

Before I get into my listicle (they’re what make articles click-baity, don’t-cha-know), let me quickly pontificate. Logan was one of the most powerful superhero films I’ve ever seen. Perhaps second only to The Dark Knight. It was a straight-forward small-scale road picture that kept a handle on a single-thread story, presented as an homage to the westerns it evoked throughout the picture. In spite of a heavy-handed two-hour run-time, the film itself moves at a steady pace. The performances are top-notch, with Patrick Stewart and Hugh Jackman taking astounding leaps above their initial performances of Charles Xavier and Wolverine circa 2000. Sweet Rao I feel old just typing that. But I digress. On with the listercizing!

  1. Things get dark, but never for the sake of needless angst.

The first thing DC should take note on… and perhaps highlight, circle, underline and install neon lights around… is that it’s perfectly acceptable to be maudlin if it’s earned. X-Men, X2, and to a much-much-much-much lesser extent any of the other X-films did much to pile on the action and gravitas towards the mutant life en masse. But Logan abstains from needless retreading. Instead, it delivers us heroes who are hurt inside and out. It gives them needs, wants, and desires that don’t coincide with some greater plot or McGuffin. And when a McGuffin lands in their lap, they pleasantly drape it in subtext (Charles Xavier, through his delusional state, would seek to mentally communicate with any over living mutants, wouldn’t he?) that earns the gravitas the film requires. And when a character screams to the heavens in a shrill cry of anger and sadness, it comes by way of two-hours of earned malaise and not because it looks cool.

  1. Show. Don’t tell.

During a lull between brutal set pieces, Professor X waxes poetic about the final days of his former academy. He doesn’t speak in pure exposition. He drifts in and out, dancing around nuanced and painful memories, and ultimately evokes the feeling of tragedy and regret deeply rooted in his psyche. We never hear the full details of what occurs. We never see some spiffy CG recreation. And we never need to.

In addition to Charles’ admission of guilt and shame and the slow reveal of X-23’s backstory, Logan elicits the show-don’t-tell ethos that DC needs to heed. While yes, we get the obligatory backstory tacked to her early on, it’s delivered without hanging a lampshade on it time-and-again. Laura is feral and untrusting. She’s lethal and raw. While we see her drop her guard eventually, it comes over the course of many scenes and instances where Dafne Keen shows us how powerful a performer she is. Logan never once feels the need to montage our way toward understanding a new norm.

  1. Keep the violence real, believable, and still other-worldly.

The biggest issues I’ve had with Batman v. Superman and Suicide Squad came solely in their fetish for destruction. Logan certainly was built for violence. But when it occurs, it’s not only earned by the stakes in the story, it comes layered with emotional and physical fallout. As Logan and others are forced to fight a youthful Wolverine clone (my one spoilery thing, I apologize…), suddenly fighting a savage killer with a healing factor feels like a true threat. It also stands to note that even in the climax of the film — with multiple combatants, gunfire, and viscera — there’s no death for the sake of spectacle. War is waged for hope, humanity, and vengeance. All that, and there’s nary a single beam-being-blasted-towards-the-sky. Natch.

  1. The story is fearless in the face of predictability

If nothing else could be counted on by DC after seeing Logan, it should be the safe admission that sometimes it’s OK to tee-up a predictable story. There’s nary a single twist to the picture if you pay clear attention. But, due to the patience of director Mangold, we get a film that never needed to rely on ham-fisted trickery to earn the 92% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The potency lies in the characterizations and believable escalation of antagonism. Villainy in Logan is no less super-villainous that Lex Luthor creating Doomsday, or Darkseid declaring war on Earth. But it’s the reactions of our heroes that carry us through to the end credits. Jokes occur naturally and not at the behest of breaking a tense and necessary silent moment for the sake of relieving the stress on the audience. Mangold lets the story unfold through deliberate character-driven motivations. We never see the puppet-strings of action-figure-merchandisers creating moments for future marketing. Honesty and artistry over bottom-dollar-profits. And because of it, the fans have carried a hard R-rated film to over 500 million dollars in ticket sales.

I know Justice League and Wonder Woman are being built to pitch out to a larger PG-13 audience. But the sincere hope remains that DC paid attention. Logan was amazing not because it used the word fuck a few hundred times, but because the story delivered earned every last fuck delivered.

 

Box Office Democracy: Logan

It’s kind of funny that the inferiority complex that has plagued comic books for decades has migrated on to comic book movies.  Every time you read an article with the headline “Bam! Pow! Comics aren’t just for kids anymore” you get this kind of desperate need for some of the less secure in the industry to justify their life’s work when they really don’t need to.  Good work is good work regardless of who reads it, and most importantly regardless what people who don’t read it think of it.  Comic book movies are getting to the same place with this death spiral race to the bottom to make the movies more and more gritty to prove that they’re more and more adult.  It made me nervous when I heard the final Wolverine movie was going to be rated R; that we would get a joyless slog of a movie more focused with blood and body counts than with making a good movie.  Logan is a great movie, a violent movie to be sure but also a thoughtful one, it’s a movie that gives you time to think— and while it is bleak, it has joy and it has hope.

Logan has a thin story, but I mean that in the most flattering way.  The whole movie is essentially a road trip where Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) takes an aging Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and a young clone (Dafne Keen) , that the film only refers to as X-23 once but we all know is X-23, looking for a mutant sanctuary in the North Dakota wilderness.  The good guys are being chased by some awfully nebulous bad guys who never get much more motivation than wanting to mess with the heroes.  I’m also not 100% sure that the emotional center of the entire X-Men franchise has been the relationship between Wolverine and Professor X, but it doesn’t matter.  Jackman and Stewart have the chemistry and the sheer magnetism to drive the whole movie as long as you don’t stop and fixate on what happened in any of the previous films.  Keen is a star in the making, she has a quiet intensity and seems great at ripping bad guys to shreds.

I’m thrilled that Logan is a superhero movie that doesn’t feel compelled to tell me that the world is ending or a city is in peril.  The central conflict of the film is one with a very small footprint.  That’s not to suggest I’m somehow okay with the corporate exploitation and then extermination of children— but there’s no ticking time bomb, no cosmic threat.  I’m honestly not sure the wider world would have noticed if the good guys had failed in this one; everyone who seemed to know what was going on was either directly involved or dead by the end.  This is just a character arc for Wolverine (and to a lesser extent X-23) and everything in the movie is just in service to that.  It shouldn’t be every superhero movie (or even most; I bet this would get old very quickly) but it’s refreshing to see a movie that could be wall-to-wall action stop for a second and appreciate the quiet moments.

I know I literally just finished praising Logan for being willing to linger on quiet moments, but this movie is also just too damn long.  I want small character moments, but I don’t need quite so many of them to be just another way of reinforcing the notion that Logan drinks too much, I got that pretty quickly.  I also think a harsher editing eye could have been taken to some of the action sequences.  I know the rule is an action beat every ten pages, but so much of the middle of the movie is different variations on Wolverine with or without X-23 just crazy murdering a bunch of evil redshirts, and what does that really accomplish the fifth time that we didn’t get on the third?  There is nothing like seeing Wolverine go nuts on people, even more so now that we got an R-rated version of it, and the first few times seeing X-23 go at it is a delight— but at a point it’s just blood and falling bodies and isn’t revealing anything about character or pushing the story forward, it just seems to be there because that’s what a studio executive thinks good pacing is.

Logan is the end of an era— it’s supposedly the last time we’ll see Jackman play Wolverine or Stewart play Professor X.  Stewart was the best casting decision in the 2000 X-Men film, and while they’ve been transitioning to James McAvoy for a while now it’s sad to see the actual curtain call.  Jackman has been the bedrock for the entire X-Men franchise up until this point, and while it’s sad to see him go I’m sure he’ll appreciate being able to gain 15 pounds without it being a complete life-altering disaster.  I firmly believe at some point someone will wonder why they’re giving up all the money they could be making by having Wolverine in movies and the part will be recast… and I’m both scared and excited by that prospect.  Scared because Jackman leaves huge shoes to fill, but excited because I want to see more of these roles turn over as a matter of course.  Actors should be able to leave these roles without needing giant continuity resets that tire out the audience.  We should accept a new Wolverine or Iron Man the same way we accept a new James Bond or a new John Connor.  The actors are important but the roles need to be timeless.  There’s an exciting opportunity here, and I hope Fox does as good a job with it as they did in making a movie as brave as Logan.

The Point Radio: Men Of Action – Michael Jai White And Christian Kane

Want some action? We’ve got plenty from two guys who know to create it. From SPAWN to FALCON RISING, Michael Jai White has never shied away from the heat and he proves it again with his new film, SKIN TRADE. Plus Christian Kane balances the thrills in THE LIBRARIANS, but proves his musical side in the new project 50 TO ONE. Now, think about it – wouldn’t he make a great Wolverine? WE ask for his reaction to that.

Be sure to follow us on Twitter @ThePointRadio.

The Point Radio: Burn Gorman Is THAT Guy

The Point Radio: Burn Gorman Is THAT Guy

Here’s a voice to go with a face we’re sure you are familiar with. You’ve seen actor Burn Gorman in DARK KNIGHT RISES, GAME OF THRONES and now in AMC’s TURN:WASHINGTON’S SPIES. He talks about his varied acting jobs and even how much fun it was on the set of TORCHWOOD plus what his dream acting job would be.

Christian Kane (THE LIBRARIANS, ANGEL) joins us in a few days to talk about his new movie and why we thunk he should be the next Wolverine.  Be sure to follow us on Twitter @ThePointRadio.

Tweeks: Christmas at the Movies with the Family

Night-At-The-Museum-3-2014Merry Christmas ComicMixers! After the presents have all been opened, dinners been eaten, and we’ve set the TiVo to record Doctor Who, we like to wrap up our Tweeks Christmas with a trip to the movies with our family. Sadly (and, well, we think weirdly) there are very few family friendly movies out in the theatres this holiday season (unless you’ve been under a rock & haven’t seen Big Hero 6 and Penguins of Madagascar — which in that case, go watch our reviews & go see those pronto!) In this week’s episode, we break down the family-friendly films you can see over Winter Break: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, Annie,  and Into The Woods.

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Tweeks: Days of Future X-men Fans

X-Men-Days-of-Future-Past-character-photo-Jennifer-Lawrence-as-MystiqueFangirls love Jennifer Lawrence and Theatre Kids love Hugh Jackman, so the question The Tweeks had to ask themselves is: Will our kind love X-Men: Days of Future Past even if we haven’t kept up on the X-Men franchises?  Will we be able to enjoy the CGI if we’re too busy being confused about who’s who in the movie?  The answer?  Watch the review & see how X-Men fans are made.

Box Office Democracy: “X-Men: Days of Future Past”

Bryan Singer was making watchable superhero movies when no one else was and because of that I want to give him a lot of slack.  I’ve even mostly forgotten Superman Returns ever happened.  I liked more about X-Men: Days of Future Past than I didn’t but there’s a nagging doubt in the back of my mind that if this were a movie by a less famous director I would be ripping it apart instead of trying to patch the pieces together.

The plot is so much of a continuity nightmare that I spent a fair amount of time wondering if it was a bizarre homage to mid-90s X-Men comics.  I’m not sure anything in the first two movies holds up at all anymore and I’m quite curious when exactly Mystique decided she wanted to look like Rebecca Romijn instead of Jennifer Lawrence as most people are pretty much done changing physically in their late 20s.  An awful lot of characters that act like they have no history at all in the first X-Men film had apparently been hanging out regularly for some 30 years before it started.  I understand this is the consequence of a movie series lasting 14 years and starting before every superhero franchise had to be a well-crafted franchise but I can’t ignore that this movie now exists in a world with those well-crafted franchises in it and it just all feels so unpolished.

There are also some insane contrivances in service of the plot.  Charles Xavier doesn’t have his psychic powers because he’s hooked on Hank McCoy’s mutant heroin that lets him walk.  I’m not bringing external baggage with that heroin comparison as it is absolutely dripping off the screen.  I could have lived and died without needing to see Professor X tying off a vein.  Wolverine is also incapacitated by a traumatic flashback during a scene where he could have easily fixed everything that goes wrong and sets up the third act.  The Wolverine I know and love from the comics isn’t quite so delicate and I’m really not buying that time travel makes someone so consistently portrayed as hard this emotionally vulnerable.

X-Men has the most star power of any film franchise and the cast really shines in this one.  James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender are, again, amazing as Xavier and Magneto and watching them have more and more emotionally charged scenes as their friendship moves toward the enmity that will define their relationship going forward.  Hugh Jackman has to carry a lot of plot in this one and he does it while still managing to radiate Wolverine in that way he’s done so much.  While rebooting the series might clean up some of the continuity and put them on equal footing there’s something about having people like Jackman (and Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan and even Shawn Ashmore) inhabiting these roles for a decade and a half that serves the belivability of a movie about people who can walk through walls and turn in to metal.

Spoiler: Like every movie that involves time travel, X-Men: Days of Future Past ends with a scene where the main character comes back to see the changes he’s made.  In this movie one of the first ways Wolverine knows that he’s in the good future instead of the bad one is that Bobby Drake is dating the person he’d rather he be with.  A touching moment but also a shout out to the ‘ship culture of the Internet I thought.  A moment of “hey, Wolverine is just like us” thrown in to what is otherwise a bit of a soft reboot.  It’s not good or bad it’s just interesting and that is, unfortunately where a little too much of this film ends up.