Sunday, March 12, 2017

Logan

James Mangold has a crafted a surprisingly introspective film in Logan, as the X-men universe closes the book on The Wolverine – for now. Hugh Jackman returns as an aged and battered version of the endearing, metal-clawed badass Logan, who is now holed up in an abandoned oil field in Mexico with an occasionally demented Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and the peevish albino mentalist Caliban (Stephen Merchant). It’s 2029, and mutants are all but wiped out, their powers essentially neutralized by biological weaponry. Logan’s own regenerative abilities are just about gone although he is still metallically enhanced. These events have brought Logan to point where he’s saving to buy a boat, so that he might load up his shipmates, and set off for the distant horizon, leaving humanity to its own devices. The plan is interrupted by the appearance of a 10-year-old girl (Dafne Keen) whose dour demeanor and retractable claws suggest she and Logan have something in common. She is being chased by the miserable Dr. Rice (Richard E. Grant) whose potions are responsible for the mutant extermination and whose experiments South of the Border have created an army of “gifted” children who he hoped to turn into fighters. Mangold doesn’t hold anything back in this swan song for the beloved Wolverine as he and the nimble moppet slash, disembowel and decapitate like there’s no tomorrow. And, in the end, that’s the film’s real poser: How does one measure the value of a life when it’s been spent taking the lives of others. Does one such as the Wolverine deserve to sail off into the sunset?

A Cure for Wellness

Gore Verbinksi, the visionary behind the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, is the mind and eye behind A Cure for Wellness, a convoluted tale of madness and quackery that he wrote and directed, set in a mountaintop aqua-therapy sanitorium in the Swiss Alps. The film stars Dane Dehaan as Lockhart, an ambitious and unscrupulous New York investment officer who is dispatched by his board to retrieve one of their own (Harry Groener) from the Alpine retreat, from whence the absent member has dispatched a puzzling note saying he won’t be coming down from the mountain. Once in Switzerland, Lockhart meets the sanitorium’s medical director, a winningly oily Jason Isaacs of The OA (who does creepy better?) and his young ward Hannah (Mia Goth), a pouty and unconventional barefoot beauty who wanders the grounds aimlessly. Of course, little is as it seems, and after an auto accident (the lately ubiquitous deer vs. car crash), Lockhart finds himself confined and doesn’t like that one bit, as he is eager to get back to New York. His encounters with the oddly cheery patients and the facility’s Stepford staff lead him to believe there’s something up with “the treatment.” There is indeed, but one must sit through two hours of not entirely satisfying build-up to get to the big – baffling – reveal. Still and all, if you like beautiful scenery – Verbinski has poured breathtaking vistas into this watery movie – and a story with a couple of unanticipated shocks this film might be your cup of tea.

John Wick: Chapter 2




Chad Stahelski’s John Wick: Chapter 2, as the title suggests, picks up the story where its predecessor left us – with the bruised and bloodied but seemingly indestructible Wick (Keanu Reeves in a role that demands very little acting but a lot of close-contact sparring) intent on reclaiming his purloined Mustang from a Russian mobster whose son nicked it in the first movie (and killed Wick’s dog) and was eviscerated by Wick for his trouble. The opening sequence sets the muscle-and-mayhem bar pretty high as Wick pulverizes automotive and human bodies that are in his way. By the end of the opening 10 minutes of Chapter 2, the body count is already approaching 50 with bullets flying through flesh and crania and blood covering walls, floors and furniture. It’s a riot. But there’s no rest for the weary because even after deciding to retire from the assassin’s trade, a visit from an effete Italian mobster (Riccardo Scarmarcio) pulls Wick back in. The sequence that follows Wick as he gets outfitted by assorted specialists in the Italian weapons and sartorial underground is great fun, played tongue-in-cheek, but not as amusing as the gunfight in the Roman catacombs or the fight on a New York subway between Wick and fellow killer Cassian (Common) or the one in a mirrored exhibit in an art museum. Yes, it’s all deafening and numbingly violent but so outlandish that you can’t help but go with it. It’s Grand Guignol theater but at least they don’t kill the dog this time.

Queen & Slim

In the soon to be iconic photograph from Melina Matsoukas's distressing Queen & Slim, stars Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith...