I’m Not Crying, It’s Just Been Raining On My Face (Logan review)

And if I am crying, it’s not because of you
It’s because I’m thinking about a friend of mine
You don’t know who is dying, that’s right, dying
These aren’t tears of sadness because you’re leaving me
I’ve just been cutting onions, I’m making a lasagna for one
Oh, I’m not crying, no

That’s all I could think of before I watched this movie for the second time. The first time being in theatres, and the second at home. And I cried both times.

Like a well adjusted man in touch with his emotions, and okay with them.

Logan (2017)

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen, Boyd Holbrook, Stephen Merchant, Richard E. Grant
Director: James Mangold
re-released on blu-ray May 23, 2017
********** 10/10

IMDB: 8.3
Rotten Tomatoes: 92%, Audience Score 91%
The Guardian: ****/*****

James Mangold is an American director, screenwriter and producer. He’s been responsible for some great films like Heavy, Copland, Walk the Line, the 3:10 to Yuma remake, and The Wolverine. He’s also directed Girl, Interrupted, Kate & Leopold, Identity, and Knight & Day. Which means that over the course of a 30+ year career, he has refined his ability to craft gritty, masculine films about relationships, loss, and character development. I’m glad to share that I’ve been there with him in good films and bad, and when the times are good with Mangold, the times are really quite good.

After the somewhat moderate success of The Wolverine, I was excited to learn that when Mangold was signed on to do Logan, he went to the fanbase to get insights on how to develop the story. Much like Hugh Jackman has done throughout his tenure as James Howlett, Mangold really took stock of the material and worked it over with proper attention.

Taking elements from the Old Man Logan run and The Death of Wolverine run (spoiler alert), this film gives Jackman room to breathe, much like Tim Miller did with Ryan Reynolds and Deadpool, he focused on the nuances of him.

In the year 2029, mutants are almost extinct. An aging and limited Logan (Hugh Jackman) lives with mutant tracker Caliban (Stephan Merchant) and cares for nonagenarian Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), who has Alzheimer’s disease, which is effecting his telepathic abilities.

When a lady asks Logan to escort her and eleven-year-old girl Laura (Dafne Keen) to a place in North Dakota called “Eden”, he dismisses her at first. He then reluctantly accepts when money is offered, money that would get him and Charles onto open water away from people. But the Transigen corporation is looking for Laura, and they murder the lady, with Laura hiding in Logan’s vehicle.

Cyborg Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook) heads up a team of Reavers to find Laura, but not before Logan and Charles learn that Transigen was breeding mutant children under project X-23, and when they moved onto project X-24, the children were to be euthanized. Laura is a clone of Wolverine, AKA Logan. Caliban is captured, but the other three escape.

On the way to North Dakota, Charles experiences another seizure, but it happens when the Reavers have closed in, allowing Laura and Logan to dispatch them. At one point on the journey the X-family stay with a farmer and his family after helping to wrangle their horses away from a busy highway. During the evenings events Logan helps the father fix the water pipes, and deal with the encroaching corporate farmers and their goons. While Logan is away Charles remembers another seizure he had as Westchester, one which claimed the lives of many of the X-men and several civilians. But he doesn’t reveal this to Logan, it is X-24 a feral clone of Logan with limited healing factor.

X-24 murders Charles and the farmers family, and abducts Laura for the Reavers and the man behind it all, Dr. Zander Rice (Richard E. Grant)

Caliban sacrifices himself by setting off grenades, but fails to kill Rice and Pierce. Logan barely stops X-24, but the farmer is injured and blames Logan for his families deaths, succumbing to his wounds.

The pair bury Xavier and find their way to Eden, where the remaining children have all escaped. But the Reavers have caught up to them once again. This time Logan uses a Transigen serum to temporarily restore his healing factor, and he takes out many of the men. Laura and other children get away, but Logan is stopped by Pierce and Rice. We learn that Logan killed Rice’s father while escaping from the Weapon X program, and that the destruction of mutantkind was designed by adding a genetic dampener to the water and laced into the food supply. Without no hesitation Logan shoots Rice dead, but Pierce releases a renewed X-24, who impales Logan on a tree. The children wipe out Pierce with their powers and Laura shoots X-24 with an adamantium bullet before it can finish Logan off.

Before dying, Logan calls Laura his daughter, compels her to not be a weapon like him, and accepts the feeling of death. Laura and the other children bury him and head towards Canada, but Laura repositions the cross in the shape of an X before walking away.

A fitting send off for the man who would be Wolverine. Logan doesn’t necessarily fit into the Fox X-verse proper, but it doesn’t earn him his movie death, and it puts some great rose-coloured glasses over the seven films he starred in (nine if you include cameos).

Also what a great way to send off Patrick Stewart as well. The legacy left by these two characters/actors will likely be analyzed by movie geeks in the decades to come.

Pros: This movie takes what is now a common genre in filmmaking, the superhero, strips it off it’s special effects and adrenaline soaked pacing, and allows a real story to happen over its run time. The R-rating was almost necessary to allow Mangold the space to do Wolverine Justice. Jackman, Stewart, and newcomer Keen are all enthralling to watch.

Cons: That we had to experience nine films and a great darkness over the Fox X-verse before we could get to excellent depictions of two X-men characters. Three if you count Deadpool. And man is it dark. Where will Laura go from here?

Runtime: 2 hours 17 minutes

Points of Interest: James Mangold set the film in 2029 to give it distance from the rest of the film continuity and create a separate film with almost no requirements or expectations to carry into more sequels. The film relies very little on CGI and green screens. Also the debut film role of Dafne Keen.

Logan definitely earns its R-rating, and while there has been much speculation over whether Deadpool forced that direction, I’m glad for it either way. It pulls some influences from comic books like Old Man Logan and The Death of Wolverine without emulating the self-referential stuff too much. Heck at once point Logan even chides Laura by saying “…we’ve got ourselves an X-Men fan… Maybe a quarter of it happened — but not like this. In the real world people die! And no self-promoting asshole in a fucking leotard can stop it!”

This movie deserves to at the top of the comic book movie heap, it does all the kinds of things that The Dark Knight did, but it has infinitely more heart.

theories Summarized

What else can I tell you about this movie? You should expect a longer more thoughtful take on the Wolverine, with character development being central to the plot. I think it deserves to win movie awards, and it’s a contender with Get Out for my favourite movie of 2017. Seriously that good. A fitting end for a guy who is the best at what he does. Only what he does isn’t very nice.

And that’s not a theory either, it’s well documented.

Tim!

Life Is… (Li Kunwu)

Like any big meal, it takes some time to digest what you’ve consumed and let the food settle before you can fully appreciate what you just went through.

The wait for a table, the anticipation growing with every waft of food that lingers by on outstretched fingertips as the waitress hustles order number 56 off to table twelve. The decision making process of what to order itself is an experience, and then the final push comes as you promise yourself to limit the dinner roll indulgences as you sit there some more as the food is prepared.

Finally, the food arrives.

You take it all in, and consider the journey you are about to take. It’s never what you pictured in your mind, but any good chef is capable of surprising you, and hopefully she has laid a good foundation for your senses to adapt to dinner.

 

Or maybe this is all just a metaphor for a book I read last month, and finally got around to writing about in early April.

Tracing A Remarkable Journey

The author of about thirty books, Li Kunwu has been a central figure in The Daily in Yunnan for decades now. He is has made painting, drawn comic strips, and published his own works, one of which I personally read recently as part of my monthly book exercise.

Can you guess what theme he fits into?

It’s actually two categories – LIFE and LOVE.

A Chinese Life is an autobiography presented in a graphic novel format, and it chronicles the journey of Li Kunwu throughout his life in China. He was born in the 1950s, so we get to experience the development of the People’s Republic of China through his youthful eyes. A member of the People’s Liberation Army, Li manages to recapture his own memories in a way that is both intimate and large enough in scale to be understood by an average historical student. There are parts filled with humour and with drama, but it never feels too heavy in one camp or the other.

It takes a few sessions of concentrated reading to get through, coming in at about 700 pages worth of content, and to be clear, the combination of text and image is at almost equivalent distribution.

Read Army

 

What I found most interesting in reading this story was not how little I really knew about The People’s Republic, nor how little I knew about Li himself. What I found most interesting was how well his story translated to english and how despite all of the seemingly incredible adversity he faced over his lifetime, that a lot of his struggles were universal.

From learning how to relate to his father, to finding love, to discovering his purpose in life, to simply living and experiencing a host of different things, A Chinese Life is an excellent demonstration of a life lived full. And Li does follow his purpose, all the while choosing to believe in what he has believed in from a young age.

It’s incredibly rewarding to see him make art to serve the purposes of a party member hairdresser, and how he finds ways throughout his youth all the way into adulthood which make him into a better artist, and which often tie in directly with his political climate. Illustrating for propaganda posters and newspaper cartoons alike.

Even when Yunnan has it’s first life model class.

And eventually we reach a point well into Li’s adult life, after his father has died, he has been through a divorce, and is taking care of his child as a single parent, that he meets a French writer and diplomat at a comic book convention. This is the point when the story begins to wrap up, and we have a moment to reflect on what we’ve been witness to.

The Modern Age

This is a story all at once encompassing and yet missing details.

Much like any good story, things have been embellished, while other pieces have been glossed over and left out. For instance, as much as I enjoyed the journey from youth, to adulthood, the final 100 pages or so seem sparse and cover a great period of time. This is intention of course, otherwise we’d be left with a 1400 page graphic novel, and I’m not sure that many people would have picked it up.

It is fascinating to see the world through the eyes of someone on the other side of it, and especially of one who holds a different political viewpoint then we are used to, but then again, life is… complex.

At least that’s my theory.

Tim!

Court of Cowls (Scott Snyder)

I like comic books – Always have. Always will.

The surface reason is pretty straight forward. I really appreciate a good narrative, and because I’m fascinated by visuals, comic books can’t be beat when it comes to pulling off a spectacle of visuals and for providing that sense of satisfaction. Correction, I probably shouldn’t call it satisfying, instead I should call it gratification, because the nature of the comic book is a continuing story. Gratification is something we are thankful for, while satisfaction is a feeling of enough.

You see, dear readers, the comic book by its very nature never finishes, so you cannot experience the fullness of pleasure, you’re left wanting.

This is great for sales, when a book has a strong story and great visuals. Less so when the book isn’t picked up. After all, the comic book industry is perpetually dying.

The Batman Writer We Deserve

If you haven’t seen Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight yet, I’m sorry to hear that. It came out almosta decade ago and it’s probably one of the best comic book based movies of all time, if not the best… possibly sharing the limelight with Iron Man no.1 and the first The Avengers movie for my top picks.

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Anyways, there is this great scene at the end of the movie wherein the newly appointed Commissioner Gordon gives a speech at Harvey Dent’s funeral. He describes Batman as a dark knight, a watchful protector, what the city of Gotham deserves, but not what it needs. The city needs a white knight in shining armour, flawless and serving as a beacon of hope. The city doesn’t deserve a flawless hero, but Batman is willing to become the villain in order to help his community rise up out of the darkness. In fact, Batman is flawless in that he is a true hero, he loses his parents and the love of his life, but he continues forward as a warrior for justice. But Harvey Dent is very flawed, and when the chips are down, he reveals that he is capable and willing to go to The Joker’s level, becoming Two-Face.

Now, let’s talk about Scott Snyder.

Scott Snyder is known for his comic book writing skills, having worked with DC and Vertigo on various books – American Vampire, Detective Comics (part of The New 52 relaunch), Batman, and Swamp Thing.

A lot of people have said that Snyder’s work on Batman has been exemplary, and I would tend to agree. I recently read the hard cover volume of The Court of Owls, and was pleasantly surprised at how well he was able to combine new storytelling with flourishes of what came before.

batsignal_at_highmark_building

Scott Snyder is the Batman writer we deserve, because he spent five years working with artist Greg Capullo to give a new perspective to Batman, respectful of what preceded, but willing to explore. This is something that all comic fans really want to see, and it’s a difficult line to walk.

 

I think he was able to accomplish this by building upon key moments and seeing the story through to whatever direction it took. Kind of amazing when you stop to think about it. Even his twists and turns on The Joker is one to remember.

Disney and Stephen King VERSUS Detective Comics

Scott Snyder attributes a lot of his writing to an early exposure to horror writer giant Stephen King and later when he was able to work for Walt Disney World after he graduated from university.  He describes it as such 

All the things I ended up writing about, those things that are deeply frightening to me—fear of commitment and growing up, fear of losing loved ones, the wonder and terror of falling in love—all of it was constantly being played out all around me in this weird, cartoonish, magnified way at Disney.

Which tells me that he deserved to write for Batman, and we deserved to have him. Not to sound like a broken record, but yeah – a labour of LOVE is what it comes down to friends. And this is why Scott Snyder is this month’s featured author for my 5 L’s of Language post. His massive love for the subject material he writes about comes through no matter what. And this is something you too should take to heart.

No matter what the occasion or the reason, always be headed towards you purpose and be authentic in your feedback, if you can do this, you’ll be like Batman. But that’s just a theory.

Tim!

Earn The Power of Self-respect (Bryan Lee O’Malley)

There was a time when I loved comic books, so much that I would buy new ones impulsively just to continue to round out my collection, get lost in the stories, and hold onto something I thought was real. Ironic given that I was enjoying fantasy stories.

But the thing is, just because I loved comic books, doesn’t mean I should have sworn them off for good, and then burned all of my copies in a fire of cleansing. Literally. I literally burned them all. Because I thought I was addicted. Read: WTF was I thinking. Yeah, I’m gonna come back to that story some other time. You don’t just get the good stuff right out the gate friends. You should know how the carrot dangle works by now.

(Foreground) Hershel Greene (Scott Wilson) - (Background L-R) Andrea (Laurie Holden), Glenn (Steven Yeun), Lori Grimes (Sarah Wayne Callies), Carol (Melissa Suzanne McBride), T-Dog (Robert 'IronE' Singleton) and Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) - The Walking Dead - Season 2, Episode 7 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

Yes, I’m watching The Walking Dead, and no I don’t care that I’m at least 4 seasons behind everybody. I’ll catch up quick. Like The Quick and the Dead.

Anyways. I was trying to make a point about indulgence.

Consumption of even the seemingly healthy things you love the most can cause you to gain weight my dear readers. Physical weight, emotional weight, spiritual weight, whatever. You name it, and someone has overindulged on it.

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And it’s important to enjoy the things you love, because if you don’t, nothing else will probably fill that void. Romantic and platonic relationships are important in life for connection, but without purpose, and entertainment, which often go hand in hand if done correctly, you might as well be a zombie.

Layers.

Which is consistent with the them of today’s spotlight author. That’s right, I’m sharing another post on the The 5 L’s of Language, because I know you need nutrition, and I promised to read the book I bought for my sisters birthday and which she wanted me to read so we could talk about it. So I did it Katrina, and I enjoyed Seconds. I really did.

But before I dig in too deep, we should run a quick refresh of what The 5 L’s of Language are all about –

I will read one book a month from the 5 groupings below, slowly expanding the number of books read so that I reach the point of 5 books a month. A book for each group

  1. LIFE – Biographies/Art/Music
  2. LOVE – Classic Fiction/Non-Fiction/Graphic Novels
  3. LEARN – Business/Leadership/Self-Help
  4. LABEL – Philosophy/Sociology/Psychology
  5. LEET– The Internet

I might be beating you over the head with this concept, but even I need a reminder now and then, and if The Devil is in the details, lets make sure we are thorough to avoid conviction. Today we are looking at Bryan Lee O’Malley and his particular brand of creativity which often shines right through in his illustrations, writing, and sometimes music. O’Malley authored the Scott Pilgrim series after all, and thus the theme at hand is LOVE. Because graphic novels.

Bryan Lee O’Malley vs the World

O’Malley doesn’t take himself too seriously. Well, at least not anymore. When he dropped out of film school and decided to create his first graphic novel, Lost at Sea back in ’03, it didn’t go over well with anyone. Especially not his friends. They were expecting him to put together something fun and irreverent, because that’s how he views life and that’s how his interviews come off when you read a bunch of them in a row.

But then he wrote Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life and seemingly exploded over night, even gaining the attention of film studios. Which is how Scott Pilgrim vs the World got made.

He makes art that combines video games, martial arts, romance, manga, and music all together in a sort of collage of pop culture. I immediately got what he was going for, because I grew up with all of those things around me. Almost to the point that I felt like it was a chronicle of my own fantasies. Which is impressive.

Scott Pilgrim, Seconds, and now Snotgirl, all have that manga look to them. But where Scott Pilgrim focused on martial arts and video games, Seconds was more about food culture and folklore. It was definitely a step away from the Scott Pilgrim books, movie, and video game. Seconds was definitely more mature than I initially expected too, though it was a shorter book, so it didn’t have time to run into the details and explore as many characters.

My point with this post is this friends. Make things that you love, because Bryan Lee O’Malley did, and even though he found a huge opportunity, I’m willing to bet a loaf of bread that he would’ve been happy no matter what success he got once he took a second attempt.

Check out his website here for more information, and this interview for some insight.

I’m out of theories for today, but check back tomorrow when I give you my own update. Should be a good one.

Tim!

Avengers 2.5 (Captain America: Civil War review)

Have you watched the best movie of the year yet? Well if you don’t know what I’m getting at, I’m not going to drag this out. It’s time to sit down and enjoy Captain America: Civil War.

 

 

 

Captain America: Civil War (2016)

Cast: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Rudd, Emily VanCamp, Tom Holland, Daniel Bruhl, Frank Grillo
Director(s): Anthony Russo, Joseph V. Russo
released on blu-ray September 13, 2016
********* 10/10

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IMDB: 8.1
Rotten Tomatoes: 90%, Audience Score 90%
The Guardian: ****/*****

The Russo brothers conduct most of their work in film as a team, whether it’s directing (Welcome to Collinwood, You, Me and Dupree, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Infinity War Part 1, and Avengers: Infinity War Part 2) producing, writing, acting, or in post-production. Also it’s kinda weird for me to put You, Me and Dupree down. Though they did have a major hand in directing both Arrested Development and Community, two of my favourite television shows.

It’s going to be challenging for me writing about this movie without pouring out my soul and spilling over the edges of the screen. I will say this as a preface. This is my favourite Marvel movie so far, and it is based on my favourite Marvel story of all time, so it’s really important for me to remain unbiased in my feedback.

I loved this movie. And I think it’s pretty fair to say “spoiler alert.” It features my all-time favourite superhero done right for the first time. Spider-Man is played by Tom Holland and he does such a great job of filling the shoes of someone who has incredible powers, a moral compass, but no idea of what to do with his abilities. He rambles on during the major ensemble fight of the movie, he stutters over his words in trying to keep secrets from Aunt May. Tom Holland was born to play Peter Parker.

The plot of the movie is fairly simple, Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) was operating as a literal sleeper agent for Hydra ever since the 1940s, and in the 1990s he intercepted a case of super-soldier serum from the Starks, killing them in the process.

In present day, a team of the Avengers are working to find Brock Rumlow (Frank Grillo). Rumlow blows himself up, hoping to kill Captain America (Chris Evans), but Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) contains the blast, throwing it in the air and accidentally kills several Wakandan emissaries.

The UN decides that the Avengers need to be put in check because of the events in Lagos and previous events in New York, Washington DC, and Sokovia. And Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) is leading the charge, especially after he is confronted by a mother who lost her son during their mission to stop Ultron a year earlier in Sokovia.

Because Cap had dealt with the infiltration of SHIELD by Hydra agents previously, he doesn’t believe that this is the right decision. Eventually Cap and Iron Man come to blows because of this difference of opinion, building their own teams of heroes. Especially the Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), who goes on a mission of revenge after his father King T’Chaka of Wakanda is murdered during a bomb blast triggered during the UN Sokovia accords session. The world thinks the Winter Soldier did it, and Captain America wants to bring in his friend, but against UN oversight.

The events turn out to be orchestrated by Colonel Helmut Zemo, a Sokovian who lost his whole family during the events of the Age of Ultron. He wanted to break up the Avengers from the inside, and worked to get Barnes, Cap, and Iron Man in the same room. Only revealing that Barnes murdered the Starks at the last moments of the film. A fantastic twist that still haunts me after three viewings.

 

Pros: This movie has it all. Action, drama, humour, a great plot, incredible cameos that never feel full, deep connections, and even some references to the Russo brothers previous work.

Cons: There aren’t any. Just kidding. In some ways it feels like a build-up to the next Avengers movie, but all of the movies feel that way upon deeper inspection.

Runtime: 2 hours 27 minutes

Points of Interest: The film lines up rather nicely with the 75th anniversary of Captain America. And 10 years ago, the original Civil War comic book came out. It’s also the Black Panther’s 50th anniversary.

This movie is entertaining throughout it’s long screen time. I barely notice the time fly by as I watch the spectacle unfold. And even when it gets introspective, nay, especially when it gets introspective, you can’t help but become engrossed by the characters. My heart actually breaks when Tony says “I don’t care, he killed my mom.” The Russo brothers have an incredible ability to balance drama with everything else.

 

 

 

Dear readers, do yourself a favour, run, don’t walk to your nearest major retailer or go online and get yourself a digital copy of this movie. I don’t think Marvel is going to do much better than this. We’ve reached the apex of the MCU and it was glorious.

Tim!