Archives for March 2017

Summary Thoughts on “Logan” (2017)

This has taken way, way too long to make its way to my blog.  But it is here now so let’s have at it – my thoughts on the recent release Logan. Stated plainly, Logan was not only a superior part of the “Hugh Jackman as Wolverine” franchise, but in general, it is a superior superhero film. Full stop. Unlike most films of its genre, which often hint at the “allegory for humanity,” Logan has a heart and pulse running through it which is distinctly relateable whether or not you are a mutant with enhanced powers.

If I am honest, I vaguely recall the actions of the preceding two films leading into this chapter (note – the previous installment was also written and directed by James Mangold). I chalk this mostly down to them essentially being pretty forgettable. As a result, I more or less was going into this third (and final) installment with no additional information save for the fact that it was a Wolverine film.

Set several years into the future, the audience is transported to a world where mutants (those uncanny X-Men) , those that are alive are basically relegated to the fringes of society. Logan (Jackman) is currently caring for an ailing Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) with the aid of fellow mutant Caliban (Stephen Merchant). Of course, a quiet life in a remote location is not in the cards for our protagonists. A mysterious woman (Elizabeth Rodriguez) enters the scene requesting that Logan help her protect a young child in her charge, Laura (newcomer Dafne Keen). There are some bad men lead by Pierce (Boyd Holbrook) after her for reasons that become apparent as the movie progresses; I will spare you the details here just in case you have not seen the film.

For me, what proceeds from this point in the story is quite reminiscent of 2006’s Alfonso Cuaron project Children of Men, a tale that also involves a somewhat reluctant man traveling across an expanse with the goal of escorting someone to a destination that is a sign of hope in a world seemingly devoid of it.

Another movie reference which informs, is featured and runs parallel to the actions of Logan is the similarly eponymous title, Shane – the 1953 western drama directed by George Stevens. Now, for all my classic film buffs, this on-the-nose reference should be enough to give you a general sense of where we are likely to be headed with respect to Logan.

As I mentioned at the open, above all else, this is a story about aging, relationships and what it really means to live, love and be a part of the world (or not). Yes, it is that much 🙂 In short, Logan really packed an emotional punch.

The performances top to bottom were engaging and noteworthy. Of particular note, I would like to call out young Dafne Keen and Jackman (of course). In his final go as our favorite adamantium-infused, ‘anti-hero,’ we feel the weight of the burdens the man carries and the journey he is on throughout as he comes to terms with his place in the world.

One final note, with Logan, not only are we being offered up this wonderful character drama, but there are some pretty solid tension-filled action sequences woven into the narrative to scratch that itch. The end result is a very satisfying outing to the cinema.

Have you seen Logan? Let me know what you thought

Logan James Mangold Hugh Jackman

Umberto D. (1952): A Lovely Introduction to Italian Neorealism

Something washed over me when I was watching Umberto D., the 1952 classic Italian neorealist film directed by Vittorio De Sica.

In the wake of Ken Loach‘s masterful I, Daniel Blake, I felt a sense of deja-vu in reverse. The similarities were jarring – the tale of a poor, elderly pensioner (Carlo Battisti) for whom the social safety net has failed, resulting in him struggling to regain his footing and dignity in a seemingly indifferent world. In Umberto D., this “world” is embodied not only in the form inadequate pension compensation but also in the person of the landlady (Lina Gennari) of the Roman boarding house where Umberto resides. Due to back rent due, Umberto is facing eviction.  Through this struggle, there are a few bright spots, his loyal four-legged companion Flike and the young maid (Maria-Pia Casilio) who manages the housekeeping for the boarding house. In the latter, he finds a kindred soul for she is struggling with her own personal crises – being an unwed young woman who has fallen pregnant.

As the film progresses, so does Umberto’s desperation to try to hold onto something of a normal life and not one of absolute destitution and homelessness. The story builds and builds to a harrowing climax, which is sure to leave you on the verge, if not in a full state of tears. By the time the word Fin appears on the screen, you are left with a feeling that is part life-affirming, part uncertainty about what the future possibly holds.

I really do not know what else to say about this film – it is a simple story beautifully told and portrayed. Often, the most impactful moments are captured with the bare minimum dialogue. It’s in the quiet, still moments, when we see our characters wearing their weariness on their faces, that the story is at its most profound and poetic.

Italian neorealism is not something that I am overly familiar with except in the general knowledge that it was a popular movement in a post-war environment, punctuated by stories of the of the working- or under- class. On the heels of Umberto D., my interest is definitely piqued.

Umberto D. is available on Criterion DVD/BluRay as well as iTunes.