Logan (2017)

Image result for logan poster

While I was on holidays, I went to see Logan. I had the entire cinema to myself (woot!) and settled in for Hugh Jackman’s final performance as everyone’s favourite anti-hero, Wolverine. And I wasn’t disappointed.

Set some years into the (near) future, mutants are near extinct. Logan is driving a limo to earn money, and caring for an ageing Charles. But things take a turn with the unexpected arrival of Laura (played by Dafne Keen), a young girl with Wolverine’s same adamantium claws and healing abilities. Initially Logan wants nothing to do with her, but soon finds himself thrust into the unwanted role of her protector, whilst being hunted by mercenaries who want Laura for their own purposes. However, this isn’t just another hero film. Unlike the previous films set in the X-Men universe, Logan is less about hero vs villain (though there is that, of course), and more a kind of raw, serious insight into one of the series’ most popular characters. I think this is evident straight away in the title – and with the Wolverine moniker dropped almost entirely throughout the film. But right from the opening scene, in which an aged Logan takes on a gang of thugs in a violent and bloody showdown, it is clear to the viewer that this is going to be a completely different X-Men experience.

Honestly, with the absence of almost any of the other mutants we’ve become so familiar with, it’s difficult to really see Logan as part of the same franchise. And it is somewhat confusing as to when, and in which timeline this film falls. Any of you familiar with the comics, and previous films will know that this whole timeline issue is convoluted and complicated. But Hugh Jackman attempted to shed some light on this new, dystopian reality prior to the film’s release, being quoted as saying “Not only is [Logan] different in terms of timeline and tone, it’s a slightly different universe. It’s actually a different paradigm and that will become clear … It’s a stand alone movie in many ways. It’s not really beholden to timelines and storylines in the other movies.” In this regard, I think it’s almost easier to consider this film as a singular, one off movie, rather than a follow up to any of the previous films.

Aside from being a much more sombre affair than anything preceding it, this film tackles some serious themes too; perhaps most notably, the inevitability of time, and death. And not just superhero death, where someone comes to save the day and everything is alright. We’re talking the very real passing of time, and the effects it has. Both Charles and Logan have aged, and previous events hinted at throughout the film have left them both weary and, in many ways, broken. These are the characters we know, but they are different, changed in irreparable ways. There are underlying tones of regret throughout the film, as well as a kind of quiet sorrow, which both Jackman and Stewart convey effortlessly. And it was affecting, in ways I wasn’t expecting. This film is like watching a loved one slowly die, and knowing there is nothing you can do to stop or slow it.

But don’t get me wrong; this isn’t a tear jerker or sorrow fest – far from it. With its initial R rating, Logan uses, to great effect, some serious comic book violence. It is brutal, and in some cases filmed in slow motion (which is always awesome, let’s face it), and exactly the kind of thing fans have been waiting to see from Wolverine. Plus, there is curse words aplenty, and though a seemingly small thing, it gives a kind of realness to the film. Makes the whole thing a bit more gritty. Even Laura’s character adds to this; she is a child, yes, but there is a seriousness to her, a kind of fierceness that almost makes you forget that she isn’t another adult.

I think there could be no more fitting end to Hugh Jackman’s run as Wolverine than this movie. It was everything he had ever wanted to do with the character, and everything we had been hoping to see. Poignant, violent, visceral, and utterly brilliant. What are you still reading for? Go and see it for yourself.

Advertisements

Split (2016)

Kevin has 23 distinct personalities. The 24th is about to be unleashed…

Image result for split film poster

I’ve never really been the biggest fan of M. Night Shyamalan. I’ve seen enough of his films to know that I can expect very little substance to come from his direction. But when I saw the trailer for Split, I have to admit that I was intrigued. So the other night, I decided to give one of my least favourite directors one more shot.

As the tagline reads, Kevin is a man suffering from Dissociative Identity Disorder, who has 23 different, distinct personalities. The basic premise of this film is that one of his personalities, Dennis, kidnaps three young girls. They wake in a room, drugged and groggy, in a scene vaguely reminiscent of 10 Cloverfield Lane, and in the following scenes, the audience can be forgiven for assuming the kidnapped teens are there for the sexual gratification of their captor. But Dennis’ motive is altogether different, and here the film hints for the first time at the pending arrival of a 24th personality, chillingly referred to as “The Beast”.

This film had the potential to be a real disaster. And according to quite a few reviews I’ve read since watching the film, it was. Shyamalan has caused something of an internet uproar with his portrayal of an already disputable, though legitimate and recognised mental illness. Along with other films such as Secret Window, and even Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club, Split‘s portrayal of Kevin’s other personalities (or at least the ones we see) is, for the most part, largely negative. This had led certain reviewers to boycott the film, citing that it only adds to the stigma surrounding mental illness, and gives D.I.D a bad name.

Despite the backlash, which falls mostly on Shyamalan himself, one has to give credit to the actors. Anya Taylor-Joy, who made her acting debut in the critically acclaimed 2016 film, The Witch, plays Casey; a quiet, intelligent young woman who seems to have a better understanding of her situation than her two classmates. James McAvoy plays Kevin, though most of the screen time is taken up not by Kevin himself but rather by three particular personalities; the sinister Dennis, commanding Patricia, and nine year old Hedwig. Each personality has their own…well, personality, and each plays a vital role in the preparation for the Beast’s arrival.

Aside from the three main personalities we encounter over the course of the film, we meet Barry; a gregarious fashion enthusiast, and very briefly touch on two or three others but aside from that, the other personalities mentioned in the tagline are barely even spoken about. I confess, I was a little disappointed in that regard, expecting to have more focus on them as well. But in hindsight, I think it was perhaps the best course of action, as any further character involvement and development would have clogged up the plot too much, and made everything far more complicated than it needed to be.

As with other films involving a character with D.I.D, Split indicates that the personalities manifested as the result of Kevin’s own childhood trauma. But this movie plays heavily on the underlying notion that ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’, and certainly the 24th personality is meant to indicate that. Casey’s character furthers this notion, as we learn more about her as the film progresses.

I think as a whole, and particularly in comparison to some of Shyamalan’s other cinematic failures, this film didn’t do too badly. As I have come to expect, it had his trademark ode to the bizarre but in this case, I think it seemed to work, at least inasmuch as it furthered the plot enough to reach a conclusion. The main protagonist is clever, cunning where she needs to be, and tougher than she looks, and I think that was definitely a selling point for me with this film. The damsel in distress trope is overused, so I was pleased to see it tossed out the window for this movie.

I think this is a film where it’s best to avoid the reviews until you’ve seen it. There seems to be an equal number of haters as there are fans. But as M. Night Shyamalan films go, it was definitely not shit.

Green Room (2016)

Image result for green room

I haven’t watched a lot of movies lately, at least not any that I haven’t already seen. So last night, I went straight to the horror section on Netflix and came across Green Room.  My best friend brought it to my attention a few months ago, and after reading a review for it yesterday, when it came up on Netflix, I decided it was a good time to check it out.

Green Room tells of punk band, The Ain’t Rights, performing their songs and struggling to get by. Following a disastrous gig that they don’t get paid for, they take the advice of local radio host, and book a show at an out of the way bar, run by neo-Nazis. What starts as just another gig for the band quickly turns to disaster after Pat (played by Anton Yelchin) returns to the green room to retrieve a phone, and unwittingly walks in on a murder scene.

From there, it turns into a fight for survival; band members pitted against violent neo-Nazis, led by the quietly insidious Darcy (played by Patrick Stewart). One of the things I really loved about this film is how real it is.There are no malevolent spirits or hideous beasts; there is just man, and a self serving agenda. For the band, their motivation is to break free of their green room confines and make it safely out of their nightmare. For Darcy and his men, it is simply about silencing the witnesses. They handle their planned violence like a business deal, with the kind of cold resolve that is part of what makes Darcy such a powerful antagonist.

Jeremy Saulnier, who both wrote and directed this film, has a clear grasp of what it takes to have an effect on his audience. In just 95 minutes, he presents a simple and effective plot that propels itself forward smoothly, aided by the raw performances by the cast, and the darkness that the film is steeped in. Green Room is edgy, confronting and totally believable, and definitely worth the watch.

10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

image

It’s rare that I see a movie that I know absolutely nothing about, but tonight I did. 10 Cloverfield Lane is a sci-fi and a psychological thriller all rolled into one, and it keeps the audience on their toes from start to finish. Hailed as being a ‘spiritual successor’ to the 2008 film, Cloverfield, this film had me enthralled from the get go.

We begin with Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), who wakes after a car accident to find herself chained up in a cement room. Enter Howard, (John Goodman), who says there has been an ‘attack’, and that he saved her life by bringing her into his bunker. She naturally assumes her captor is either lying or crazy but after a couple of failed, albeit creative, escape attempts, she meets Emmett (John Gallagher Jr), Howard’s gregarious neighbour, and fellow survivor of the supposed attack, who confirms the story. With nothing else to do but wait out the assumed apocalypse in the cleverly decked out bunker, the three settle into a relatively comfortable living arrangement, but not all is as it seems.

Having no prior knowledge of this film or its franchise, I didn’t know what to expect. Much like the protagonist, just when I thought I had it figured out, something would happen to throw me off. It was superbly acted, and the small cast did great things with their respective characters. Particular kudos goes to John Goodman for his thoroughly chilling portrayal of a doomsday prepper that perhaps enjoys the bunker life just a little too much.

While there are many out there who found the ending to be pointless or not in keeping with the rest of the film, I have to disagree. I’m not going to spoil anything for you, except to say that it is an ingenious way to meld a typical thriller into a sci-fi, and create a seamless link to this film’s predecessor.

If you’re looking for a film that is in equal parts intriguing and entertaining, with an unnerving antagonist, a creatively kickass female lead and some awesome alien action, 10 Cloverfield Lane is the movie for you.

Paper Towns Review

Temple_Hill_Entertainment_-_Paper_Towns

I have been slack this year. I have only read ten books, and aside from Amanda Palmer’s The Art of Asking, I haven’t read s single one that I actually liked. Just a couple of days ago, I finished reading Paper Towns, by John Green, and I have to say I was rather unimpressed with it. Having read Looking for Alaska not that long ago, I was dismayed to find a slightly more boring version of the same story. Boy loves purposely enigmatic girl, love is unrequited, something happens to the girl that requires the boy to solve some mystery about her, and they don’t end up together. That’s literally it.

I went to see the film adaptation of Paper Towns last night, as part of a charity event raising awareness for mitochondrial disease. After reading the book, (which I hadn’t finished at the time I purchased the ticket) I was less than enthused about the prospect of sitting through the film, but there was pizza and I’m not one to turn down pizza. So I went, and decided to give the film the benefit of the doubt. As it turned out, I liked the film a little more than the book, but it’s still not one I’ll be in any hurry to watch again.

The story revolves around Quentin ‘Q’ Jacobsen (played by Nat Wolff, an actor you might recognise from yet another John Green adaptation, The Fault in our Stars), a young man on the cusp of adulthood, who has a nearly life long obsession with the stereotypical girl next door, Margo Roth Spiegelman (played by Cara Delevingne). There were a lot of parallels between this, and John Green’s other works. Margo, like the title character in Looking for Alaska, is essentially nothing more than a spoiled child who revels in her own mystery. Q, like Miles, is the under appreciated, decidedly convenient, sort-of-but-not-really friend smitten with the girl. Both stories are told from the male perspective, and neither one is particularly entertaining.

Margo is difficult to like. She finds out her boyfriend is cheating on her with her best friend, and yeah, that would suck. But she goes on a huge revenge mission and then leaves Q to deal with the aftermath. Her actions are petty, and only result in making her look more like the child she is so desperate to prove that she’s not. She forces Q into helping her, because she thinks it’s her job to make him more bold, more like the kind of person she would like. I feel like it’s a pretty negative message to be sending people this story is aimed at; do things you’re not necessarily comfortable with, to please people that are only going to use you up and leave. Nice one, John.

The film adaptation of Paper Towns was differed from the book, in that it actually had more of a focus on the friendship between Q and his best friends, Ben and Radar. Though Q’s obsession with the ultimately unlikeable Margo is obviously a major focal point of the film, and I still found myself wanting to slap him upside the head, Ben and Radar (played by Austin Abrams and Justice Smith respectively) are fun enough that they almost single handedly (double handedly?) carry the entire film. Of particular note is the scene in which a drunken Ben, to alleviate his own fear of being in a creepy building, sings the Pokemon song aloud, until the three friends are belting it out together.

Margo’s portrayal in the film is admittedly more likeable than in the book. In the book, when they finally catch up to her at the end, she is rude, nasty and unappreciative. In the film, she at least deigns to apologise to Q for sending him on what was essentially a wild goose chase. But still, I found it difficult to relate to any of the characters in the book/film, and couldn’t understand Q’s infatuation with Margo.

Out of five, the film gets a 2.5 and the book, only a 2. That extra .5 for the film comes entirely from the fact that the plot was fast tracked and the message was more about friendship. If you’re a John Green fan, by all means go to see it, but otherwise I’m not sure I’d bother.

Books vs Film

Last night I attended a debate with my friend, during which the three women on the panel discussed at length whether books and films can be compared, and if one is better than the other. Now, seeing as I suffer from a debilitating inability to participate in group discussions without getting shaky hands and clammy palms, I figured I would voice my opinion, as I am wont to do, in writing.

The ‘book vs film’ topic is hardly anything new. People have been arguing for years which is the better storytelling medium and as yet I don’t believe anyone has been able to reach a satisfactory conclusion. That’s because, on the whole, you cannot compare the two; they’re simply too different. When it comes to specific examples however, there will always be two sides to the argument.

I love books. I was that nerdy kid who got put up three reading levels in primary school because I devoured every book I could get my hands on. I was reading at high school levels by the time I was eight. My love of literature has been a part of me since I was a wee little’un but it was only later that I developed a real interest in film. Reading has always been a passion of mine and my love of the written word was one of the reasons I got a job working at a bookstore. Though to tell you the truth, my ex-boss and good friend informed me that she hired me first and foremost because I talked so much.

Loving film and loving books aren’t mutually exclusive. I know many people, myself included, who love both. Of course, then there is my brother, who thinks reading is for losers and frequently tells me that my beloved books are only good for kindling, but he is an uncultured swine and so his opinion doesn’t count. (For the record, that was a joke. Regardless of his disdain for books, my brother is one of my favourite people in the world.) I think film and literature can help each other in a lot of ways. When I worked at Collins, I had a customer who had just seen the film Stardust, and upon learning it was a book, came in to buy it. That struck a chord with me both because I was glad a girl so young was reading and because I have a particular fondness for Neil Gaiman. Similarly, I had a customer asking about Chuck Palahniuk (incidentally another of my favourite authors) and I was able to recommend that she watch Fight Club, as I felt the film adaptation of the book was excellent.

Being a self-confessed book geek in no way inhibits my ability to appreciate a good film. And while I often believe specific books are better than their silver screen counterparts – for a varied number of reasons – there are definite exceptions to that rule. Bridget Jones’ Diary is one of the few chick flicks that I really enjoy and yet I found the book to be tedious and dull and once I had read it, I went entirely against my nature and gave it away.

Though I do actually enjoy both versions, the Harry Potter series is one example where I believe the books to be better than the films. The reason I prefer the books is largely due to the fact that Peeves was omitted from the films entirely and I felt ever so slightly cheated by this. Another main reason for me was the portrayal of Sirius Black’s death in the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. I know it’s a cliche but when I watched it, I couldn’t help but be underwhelmed and notice that it had occurred in a completely different way inside my head. When I read the book, I’m not ashamed to admit that I bawled my eyes out at the loss of one of my favourite characters but I was completely unmoved by the same scene in the film. There are other reasons I prefer the books too; small things, perhaps, yet they make all the difference.

I don’t hold with the notion that films have no merit, in the same way I get offended when someone says books are pointless. It has been my experience that some book lovers can be rather judgemental about those who prefer film and take the stance that they they themselves are more intelligent because they read. I find this to be a pretentious and rather a rude point of view. Both books and movies can be useful, entertaining and even educational. My youngest brother has no interest in traditional learning but sometimes he comes out with facts that surprise and impress me. When I ask how he knows any one piece of information, often his answer will be that he learnt it from a film. I’m talking about real factual information too, not something dragon related that he picked up from Game of Thrones and assumed was real history.

There are always going to be people who prefer movies and those who prefer books. Even down to individual adaptations there will be two sides to every argument. I personally believe polite debate on the matter is healthy,and the more perspectives you can get about either side of the argument, the better. For me, I cannot say whether books in general are better than films or vice versa. I know there are certain books that I prefer compared to their film equivalent and other films that I prefer over the books. So after all this, which is better; books or films? The answer is, paradoxically, neither and both. It all depends entirely on your preference. Regardless of what that may be, enjoy them both freely and happily. I know I do.