Logan

Logan (2017) Directed by James Mangold.

I’ve always been a fan of big, loud comic book movies. I love a couple of hours of mindless escapism, particularly if there’s well-constructed set pieces, computer graphics that don’t detract from the action, strong characters and a good story.

Suffice it to say, most of the X-Men franchise left a lot to be desired in many of these areas for me (despite my enduring love for Sir Patrick Stewart), and I always thought that they pandered to a far younger audience than the source material warranted. In particular, I always wanted to see a Wolverine movie that wasn’t sugar coated.

Finally, James Mangold gave us Logan and I couldn’t be happier.

Right from the outset, Mangold informs us that this is not a popcorn flick for the kiddies. The story is dark, there is plenty of bad language and a lot of quite explicit violence, which I think are all necessary in underpinning the humanity of this film. Hugh Jackman and Sir Patrick Stewart reprise their roles as Logan and Professor Charles Xavier for one last time.

Logan is now visibly aged, his body is no longer immediately regenerating – even his eyesight is failing him, and seeing Wolverine wearing reading glasses was rather lovely. Let’s face it, this is Hugh Jackman, so he is still good looking, but no longer in a youthful, sensual way, which anecdotally some female friends found difficult to deal with. (Female spectatorship and objectification are very much alive and well!) Xavier is gaunt and elderly, suffering from a degenerative brain disorder and requires regular medication to stop him from killing everyone in his immediate vicinity. Logan is keeping him isolated near the Mexican border, and in the care of another mutant, Caliban (played very well by an almost unrecognisable Stephen Merchant).

Into this mix comes Laura, a young mutant who is on the run from a corporation. She is played with alarming ferocity and skill by Dafne Keen who manages to express so much with very little dialogue – it’s a stunning and incredibly mature performance. On the other side of the equation is Dr Rice (played with all the expected urbane menace by Richard E. Grant), who is performing ghoulish experiments on mutants, including young Laura.

The results are a violent, foul-mouthed, yet strangely beautiful and thoughtful take on universal questions about difference, friendship, family and death. This is the X-Men movie I’ve always wanted – a legitimately adult, well-made action movie, set firmly within a comic book universe that also tackles big themes with care and consideration.

I saw it in the cinema when it was first released in Australia earlier this year, and I confess I cried at a couple of key points, especially the end. I watched it again last night and I’m not ashamed to say it moved me to tears again.

Absolutely one of my favourite films of this year.

Excalibur (1981) – Movie Review

As many of you know, I’m doing a Bachelor of Communication at the moment. I’ve recently read one of Mark Kermode’s books and that’s also inspired me. While I’m busy with study, work, gardening and music, from time to time, I want to exercise some of the things I’ve been learning at uni and indulge in two of my greatest pleasures in life – watching movies and writing. I hope you enjoy my musings 🙂

Excalibur (1981) Orion Films. Directed by John Boorman.

I remember seeing this on first cinematic release back in the day, and it’s become something of a guilty pleasure that I like to revisit every year or so. It’s cheesy, at times very theatrical but there’s something about it I really love.

English director John Boorman created (for its day) an incredibly violent yet a very tender retelling of the Arthurian legend. The late Nigel Terry stars as Arthur and brings both tremendous strength and an aching innocence to the role and is surrounded by a “who’s who” of the cream of UK’s up and coming thespians, including Liam Neeson, Ciaran Hinds, Gabriel Byrne, Cherie Lunghi and Patrick Stewart. But the reason I continue to re-watch this is the brilliant portrayal of Merlin by Nicol Williamson. He eats up the screen, and his scenes with a very young Helen Mirren as Morgana Le Fey are simply riveting. Legend has it that Mirren and Williamson absolutely loathed each other at the commencement of shooting but became “very good friends” by the time it was completed. Irrespective, their performances are outstanding.

The original music by Trevor Jones is for the most part excellent but there’s a few times where I feel it intrudes on the scenes. Much of the action is informed by the sumptuous cinematography of Alex Thompson and it’s no surprise to me that he was nominated for an Academy Award for this film. The Irish countryside stands in for Arthur’s England and all its grey, bucolic green and muddy glory is well on display here. Interestingly, I recently read that Boorman had chosen many of the sites for his Lord of the Rings project, which never got off the ground. The similarities as well as the appeal of Ireland isn’t lost on me, and I wonder if Peter Jackson ever watched this and had similar thoughts.

Yes, the practical effects and fight scenes are dated and at times it looks and feels more like stage play but to my eyes it’s the best cinematic retelling of this classic tale – far more entertaining and engaging than either Antoine Fuqua’s King Arthur (2004) or Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017). I can’t help but feel that Boorman has a real fondness for the Arthur myth, which shows throughout.

Have you seen Excalibur? Let me know what you think. Also, if you have particular films you’d like me to watch, let me know – I’ve always got time for a good movie!