Logan

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I’d like to preface this by saying that before Logan, I’d never seen an X-Men movie. I did the very same thing with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Although, even with Mr. Potter, I’d seen at least one of the previous films.

I get the gist and I just don’t much care for it. Superhero movies — while fun and colorful and loud — are just not my bag. I’m thrilled about Thor: Ragnarok later this year, but only because Taika Waititi is directing.

I have many friends who are totally Marvel bonkers; tattoos, a rich, vast knowledge of that universe and its inhabitants, and an inability to coherently grasp that someone doesn’t know who Professor X is.

Beastly sorry to disappoint, but that’s not me.

That said — I really enjoyed Logan! Let me give you the rundown of what it looks like through the eyes of uncultured swine.

The movie is about a washed up has been named Logan (Hugh Jackman) who can really take a punch and drinks way too much to be an Uber driver. He splits his time between running away from his problems and caring for his sickly father, Charles (Patrick Stewart).

He’s got some sort of brother-creature who can’t go out in the sun named Caliban (Stephen Merchant) who — to be quite honest — bears the brunt of the troubling state of affairs regarding Charles.

These folks are all mutants, the lot of ’em. Charles has these wicked seizures that slow down time and space and his brain is considered a WMD, Logan has knuckle knives and can self heal, and Caliban can sniff the air and tell you what the guy at the gas station down the street had for lunch. Seems like he got the short end of the stick on that one.

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What Logan doesn’t know is that he has a daughter, Laura (Dafne Keen) who tracks him down, bringing a whole bunch of trouble hot on her trail. Some bad men arrive one day, the Big Boss being Pierce (Boyd Holbrook). You can tell he’s a bad guy because he has this cool metallic hand like the Terminator and a gold tooth.

It doesn’t take long to realize that Laura is Logan’s daughter because not only does she have knuckles knives, she’s got ’em in her feet, too. It’s pretty cool. In order to protect his father and daughter, Logan piles everybody into the car, slugs some Crown Royal, and hightails it outta there.

For awhile after that, the movie is like a nice, family road trip. They stop at a casino, get a neat hotel room, Charles almost kills everyone with a seizure — basically a holiday. Unfortunately, this Pierce guy and his trained goons are pretty relentless and instead of enjoying one another’s company, they’ve got eyes on the road behind them.

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Journeying to a place where Laura will be safe and get to see all of her old friends proves to be one of the most treacherous adventures Logan’s ever been on and may spell the end of his life as well as his father’s and — worse yet — Laura’s.

Had I gone into the theater unaware that this was an X-Men movie, it might’ve taken me a moment to figure that out. I mean, I got it pretty quickly, but the whole thing doesn’t scream Marvel. I feel that was a plus, personally. It’s the struggle a man faces in recognizing his own flaws and doing what it takes to overcome — or not.

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That’s so relatable! That’s the key to this film being so good. The guy is a hardened mutant, but he’s forced to tap into the human part of himself for the sake of his loved ones.

It’s slow going in the beginning, but once it gets rolling — literally — it’s a real rollercoaster. More than an X-Man movie, this is just a great story told pretty well. Stephen Merchant, while not claiming a ton of screen time, was the crowning jewel of this picture. Unrecognizable outside of his usual oddball tendancies, Merchant brought to life a character I know nothing about — and I still know very little about. But he was great!

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That Dafne Keen is a little treasure, too. She’s just as cute as a button, but she’ll rip your throat out if you say so. I appreciated that they got James Mangold — a director who doesn’t have a ton of this source material under his belt — to work this movie. And one of the writers, Michael Green, wrote a bunch of episodes of Everwood. Remember Everwood?

As always, I must mention the score. Marco Beltrami has composed for the entire Scream franchise, two shark movies — The Shallows and Soul Surfer, the reboot of The Thing, a Die Hard, and a smattering of sci-fi flicks. Not to mention several Marvel films. That said, it is abundantly clear why he stuck the landing so hard on this score.

This is a wonderful film and I’m sure there are Marvel fanatics who either ugly cried through the last half or griped for a week and a half after about everything they could have done better “because in the comics they…” blah blah blah.

Me? I’m just a girl, standing in front of a boy with knuckle knives, asking him not to take all of the green stuff at once.

I don’t have to tell you to go see this movie. You either have already — 6 or 7 times — or you’re not interested. Well, I wasn’t interested either and I had a swell time. It’s a good one to see on the big screen. Just bring tissues. Oh, and beware the light.

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The Discovery

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Putting my own mortality to the test as an accident prone child, I’ve become acutely aware of it as I’ve gotten older. The everlasting debate of what happens to us after we pass from this life to the next is one that will likely never be factually, soundly proven. It’s just kinda a wait-n-see.

But what if we found out today? What if we were able to pinpoint the exact chain of events that occurs when we close our eyes for the last time? If it were scary, would scientists get off their duffs and finally curate an anti-death potion? What if it were Xanadu; all of your childhood dogs would be there and you could go wherever you wanted and be blissfully, effortlessly happy — would the fear fade into anticipation? Maybe even impatience?

The Discovery explores that very idea. Neurologist, Will (Jason Segel), is going home to see his brother, Toby (Jesse Plemons), and their father, Thomas (Robert Redford). He’s been away for some time and is not only unsure of what to expect, but anxious at what he’ll find when he arrives.

On a ferry to an island where his family now lives in light of recent events, he strikes up a lively debate with the only other passenger on board, Isla (Rooney Mara). She’s bleach blonde, spicy, and unfiltered. The two have a peppery debate about The Discovery; a recent, scientifically backed report of a confirmed afterlife. Going ashore, Isla bids Will a rather salty goodbye just as Toby arrives to collect him.

Tensions runneth over while Will begs his lead-footed and seemingly maladroit sibling not to runneth over any civilians.

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Pulling up to what looks like a once opulent and prestigious home — now a kind of halfway house for folks affected by the astronomical influx of suicides following The Discovery — Will reunites with his father, Dr. Thomas Harber.

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Dr. Harber, the great scientist behind The Discovery, is found hooked up to his own machine; always pushing forward with this devastatingly controversial idea of his. He and Will have a fraught relationship over his work, and Will has returned to beg him to stop.

Running into Isla again, it becomes clear that she needs help and she’s invited to live in the mansion. Together, the two begin working with Toby and Dr. Harber to literally project what a deceased person sees onto a screen. Through his desire to get his father to abandon this mission, Will becomes fascinated with the findings and an obsession ignites within him.

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Still angry with his father for things that happened years ago, Will may conceivably begin to understand his father’s work even though it’s been plagued by the tragedy of so many lives lost to “get there”.

The premise of The Discovery is an interesting one. Our great debate of the afterlife has spanned human existence. With eventual death being an inevitable consequence of life, certainly we query what the grand payoff of living will be — or, perhaps even more salient — if there will be one at all.

The Discovery professes a weighty conviction that life — even one that is happy — would not be equal to the euphoria that may be found when it’s over. Given our current circumstances, I shudder to imagine what might happen were this to become reality. Sure, some of you may be saying, “It’s a movie. This ain’t real life, bby.”

And I know that, but as someone who used to lie in bed at 8-years-old, blood running cold at the thought of ultimate non-existence, it’s something I’ve given plenty of thought to. Do I hope that when I die there’ll be a house made of cheese with puppies also made of cheese waiting for me? Of course I do. Am I’m probably just gonna be chillin’ in the ground? Yeah.

All I’m saying is, it’s something to think about.

But I digress…

The Discovery is a well-written film thats postulation crumbles a bit toward the end leaving the audience bewildered. Writer and Director Charlie McDowell presents the premise in a thought-provoking albeit melancholy package without sapping the energy of the picture. Mara and Redford need to work together more often. The two share a firey compatibility on screen.

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I was lucky enough to participate in a Q&A after the film featuring Chicago native writer/director/actor/Jack of all trades Joe Swanberg as moderator as well as Discovery writer/director Charlie McDowell and star Jason Segel.

Segel spoke candidly about his previous works and reflected on doing Freaks and Geeks as well as that scene in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Like so many actors who are typecast from a younger body of work, Segel exercised and showcased his range in The Discovery.

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Normally if I don’t like a film, I’ll tell you to wait until it hits Netflix. I enjoyed this movie and I’m happy to say that you can watch it on Netflix right now if you want to! In fact, go do that. Oh, and fun fact, my friend over at http://www.theblondeinfront.com, brilliantly asked Mr. McDowell about putting his mother, Mary Steenburgen in the film as she’d never been in one of his pictures before. She was so delighted that she cried when she got the call from Charlie’s people.

After the Q&A, The Blonde In Front and I were trying to snag some selfies with the guys, but their handlers wouldn’t let us close enough. Standing by the concessions, the three came right up behind us to chat amongst each other. We handled it like adults.

and even got to get a photo with the Director himself!

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The Discovery is on Netflix currently! Go watch!

The Belko Experiment

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One thing that I have noticed as I’ve gotten older is that I’m acutely aware of my own mortality. I exercise because 1) if I don’t watch my figure, nobody else will and 2) if the zombie apocalypse happens, I’m ready. I also have crippling, plan cancelling anxiety. That anxiety — I’m realizing — isn’t the weakness I once viewed it as, but my greatest attribute. If shit hits the fan, I’ve been prepared for it all along. That impending sense of eventual, inevitable doom has got me on ‘ready’ all day, everyday.

I work in an office that houses roughly 200 employees at any given time. If they made an announcement that we had to start killing each other in order to stay alive, my first thought would probably just be, “That figures.”

Belko, a non-profit organization located in provincial Bogota, Colombia, is an office building like any other. Kind of. Upon onboarding, each new employee has a chip implanted at the base of their skull in case they are kidnapped. The point and purpose of the outfit is ambiguously described at best.

Some of the staffers include Mike (John Gallagher Jr.), his girlfriend, Leandra (Adria Arjona), new girl Dany (Melonie Diaz), office perv, Wendell (John C. McGinley), stoner extraordinaire, Marty (Sean Gunn), maintenance wizard, Bud (Michael Rooker), the one and only security guard at Belko, Evan (James Earl), and the boss man himself, Barry Norris (Tony Goldwyn).

A work day starting like any other — office banter and lots of coffee — swiftly takes a different shape when an announcement is made by a mystery voice over the PA that three people must die, or the mystery voice and its collective company will kill six of them.

Here’s where you suss out what kind of people you really work with. There are those who think it’s a joke or make a joke out of it, the people who begin to think pragmatically if it isn’t a joke, and the messes who fall to peices.

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As the building seals up around them, making escape impossible, Barry takes on the alpha role. Calm and collected at first, his patience runs thin in the maelstrom and he begins barking orders. With a climbing body count at the hands of the Mystery Company behind the voice, he makes a decision no one is comfortable with and the killing spree is well under way.

Their demands becoming greater by the hour, the Mystery Voice makes good on each of their promises. Mike, being the most level-headed person in the building, starts to butt heads with Barry when his executive decisions teeter on brash and possibly unnecessary. Mike’s primary concern is Leandra’s continued safety, but even she knows that when it comes down to brass tacks, everyone’s looking out for themselves.

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So many questions: who is doing this? Why? Does the will to survive skew your moral compass and give you the power to kill the nice guy who says hi to you every morning at the printer? Just blow his brains out? When does the scale shift in the other direction?

This movie has been called The Purge: Office Edition. That isn’t terribly accurate given the fact that people will die whether anyone in the building pulls the trigger or not. What would you do? Gamble that they’re bluffing? Or decapitate Karen from accounting without so much as a second thought?

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As your neighborhood score junkie, I’ve gotta give it up for Tyler Bates. He’s responsible for scoring about a million things — Dawn of the Dead, 300, and The Sacrament being some of my favorites — and expertly crafted something nervewracking for Belko.

The concept for the film is good enough. The execution — PUN — is fine. It’s the ending that spoiled it for me. I’m not one to give these things away unsolicited. It is often difficult to put a bow on something like this and not have it look like my 8-year-old nephew wrapped it up with his eyes closed. Horror and thriller films usually either stick the landing or totally unravel at the end.

While it’s tough to say just exactly why I didn’t like it based on the content of the ending I will tell you that it fell apart like bad meatloaf; too many breadcrumbs, not enough egg, and the onions weren’t diced small enough. It’s worth a look because it does have a fun cast of players, but it’s totally fine to wait for it to hit Netflix.