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!

Give Em Hell (Hell or High Water review)

The superhero genre is giving us our money’s worth folks. This year alone, there have been 7 major studio movie releases alone. That’s more than half the year spent on superheroes folks. And there are even more planned for next year.

There is this film director who is pretty much sick of it all. He can’t stand the superhero genre, and I can only now see his point. He made my favourite movie of the year and it features real people. No capes.

 

 

 

Hell or High Water (2016)

Cast: Jeff Bridges, Ben Foster, Chris Pine,  Dale Dickey, Gil Birmingham
Director: David Mackenzie
released on blu-ray November 22, 2016
********** 10/10

hell_or_high_water

IMDB: 7.8
Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, Audience Score 89%
The Guardian: *****/*****

 

David Mackenzie is a Scottish film director and co-founder of the Glasgow-based production company Sigma Films. Known for his ability to resist genre and typecasting, his set of films don’t really fit into one format or another. But his passion for a thorough and nuanced story sure comes through every time. His list of directed films to date includes – The Last Great Wilderness, Young Adam, Asylum, Hallam Foe, Spread, Perfect Sense, You Instead, Starred Up and now Hell or High Water.

Mackenzie has made an excellent name for himself in the indie circuit, but Hell or High Water is the watermark which should garner him serious attention in 2017 and beyond.

Let’s talk about the plot for a few minutes though.

As something of a mix between crime thriller and neo-western with the bad guy really and truly played by the bank, the Howard brothers are trying to save their family ranch from foreclosure. This was the result of their mother’s recent death and a reverse mortgage the bank instated to pay her personal debts – if the debt is not paid within a few days, the bank gets the ranch.

The duo of younger brother Toby Howard (Chris Pine) and ex-convict older brother Tanner Howard (Ben Foster) are now working a series of small bank robberies against the efforts of Texas Ranger Marcus Hamilton and his partner Alberto Parker (Gil Birmingham). The rangers are always mere steps behind in their quest to arrest the brothers. The Howard brothers are close in securing enough funds to disrupt the Texas Midlands Bank daily operations for the week throughout its network of bank branches and simultaneously gather enough money to pay back their debts and put the ranch squarely in the family. Toby hopes to leave the ranch to his estranged sons in the form of a trust and finally break a cycle of poverty generations deep. Tanner just wants to do some good after having murdered their abusive father and spent so much time in jail. But he also enjoys committing crimes.

Hamilton is close to retirement, and quickly sizes up the brothers and how the crimes are being committed. He wants one last case before his forced retirement and is happy to dig into his temporary partner Parker, focusing on his Mexican and Indian heritage as a source of insults. Once Hamilton figures out the pattern of the robberies, the window of opportunity for the Howards is shortened and the brothers are forced to rob a bank on pay day in the middle of the afternoon. An impromptu shootout with the mob of townspeople forces the Howards to split up, with Toby narrowly evading capture and Tanner taking the mob with him into the hills, in what will likely end in a stand off.

But that’s all I’ll reveal about the plot. It would ruin it if I did.

 

Pros: The three lead characters are infinitely fascinating, and the details of the story slowly engross you, asking the question, what does a modern day western look like? This isn’t your typical heist movie, it has all the richness of film from the 1970s. Every shot and piece of dialogue is necessary.

Cons: If you aren’t interested in a thinking man’s western, then you might find the pacing a little slow and switch back and forth between the two groups unsettling.

Runtime:  1 hour 42 minutes

Points of Interest: Comancheria (the film’s original title) is set in West Texas and is named after the region of New Mexico, West Texas, and nearby areas occupied by the Comanche before the 1860s. The phrase come hell or high water holds a double meaning for this movie. It can refer to a contract that requires that payments come through no matter what the circumstance OR when you must do whatever is necessary to accomplish the results, consequence or no.

I cannot recommend this movie highly enough. It does everything it should do within the confines of the genres it samples form, and more. The characters are well acted, the supporting cast is engaging, the set locations are evocative, the action sequences are realistic but dramatic all the same, hell, even the subtext is clearly there if you need it. Hell Or High Water is my pick for movie of the year (and I loved Captain America: Civil War and Zootopia). Enough said.

Hell Or High Water is incredibly important in a world filled with Disney princesses, Marvel superheroes and new Star Wars movies. It respects the heavy films of the past, the ones before Jaws and A New Hope came along. The ones that really engage with their audience, and which are being eaten up as television shows at the moment. But films are self-contained stories, and television requires a larger commitment.

I hope that David Mackenzie influences a new generation of filmmakers to follow in his footsteps and leave the capes and tights in the closet. It’ll enrich our lives. But that’s just a theory.

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

rs_634x940-160307074539-634-captain-america-civil-war-poster-chris-evans-robert-downey-jr-3716

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!

Death Of The Superhero (Alan Moore)

Another month, another post about The Reading List, my ever-faithful and dear readers!

In case you haven’t read that article yet, which is okay, because I’ve only been writing about it once a month, I’ll give you a quick update.

The Reading List

Every month, I turn back to The Reading List for another book to read and another artist for you to consider in your own personal journey. My goal with this project is simple, I am challenging myself to read one book a month from 5 particular groupings. The 5 L’s of Language as I’ve come to call it.

  • LIFE – Biographies/Art/Music
  • LOVE – Classic Fiction/Non-Fiction/Graphic Novels
  • LEARN – Business/Leadership/Self-Help
  • LABEL – Philosophy/Sociology/Psychology
  • LEET -The Internet

But before I dig into this month’s grouping, I’m going to share with you something of an anecdote.

Alan Moore and The Killing Joke

A few weeks ago, I wrote a film review about a movie which had finally been adapted from a beloved stand-alone graphic novel. A story which has since inspired a generation of artists and furthered an ethos about the importance of Batman as a popular cultural icon. That review was on The Killing Joke, originally created by Alan Moore and Brian Bollard.

You see friends, the movie I reviewed was not endorsed by either party, and is definitely not a faithful adaptation.

The Killing Joke is well known in the comics community and has slowly been incorporated into other Batman media outlets like film and video games. Many critics considerate it to be the best Joker story of all time and one of the key Batman stories to read. I happen to agree with that last statement. And as I also mentioned in that review, Alan Moore has expressed personal regrets about ever having written it.

The logic from Moore being that he wanted to expand upon ideas of what superheroes were and could be, to reinvigorate the industry with silly and fun stories, radical stories, stories that made you consider them and recognize how bizarre comic books truly are. A challenge to the continuity and mythos of superheroes. But after Alan Moore made that story, the industry continued to darken and darken as a consequence, and the industry has never really snapped back since that dramatic shift.

But did you know that The Killing Joke was made in 1988 and is preceded by two other well known stand alone stories that Moore wrote? V For Vendetta also came out in 1988, and the  Watchmen series had previously wrapped up in 1987. Watchmen is in fact the first story to really breakdown the superhero genre in an epic way.

And both of those films enjoyed their own adaptations, also criticized by Moore for stripping the source and energy of the original stories. You see, dear readers, Alan Moore is the type of artist that believes in comic books, but has such a respect for them that he would rather he remove has name from any film adaptations then work with movie studios to produce a variation.

As a consequence of that rationale, rights have been sold for other Alan Moore works – From Hell, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and Constantine.

This demonstrates rather well the power of his storytelling ability, the success he has had in the comic industry, and also the confidence he has in not compromising his art in order to make money.

Which is why if you haven’t guessed it yet, the grouping of the month is LOVE, because I love Alan Moore’s graphic novels. His spiritual and political views are somewhat different than my own,  him being a ceremonial magician and anarchist, but I think that adds to his value as an artist you should watch, because he brings an incredible dedication to his work and the best way to become a well rounded individual is to remove barriers and ignorance.

I’ll leave you with this quote from The Mindscape of Alan Moore, and let you ponder his frankness.

Yes, there is a conspiracy, indeed there are a great number of conspiracies, all tripping each other up … the main thing that I learned about conspiracy theories is that conspiracy theorists actually believe in the conspiracy because that is more comforting. The truth of the world is that it is chaotic. The truth is, that it is not the Jewish banking conspiracy, or the grey aliens, or the twelve-foot reptiloids from another dimension that are in control, the truth is far more frightening; no-one is in control, the world is rudderless.

What do you think? Have you read any of his work? Do you think he’s a genius, a lunatic or a bit of both? I have a theory or two on it.

Tim!

My Uncle Ben (The Costume – A Shocking Expose, part I)

Well it WAS inevitable.

Or maybe I should say pre-destined?

We all knew I was eventually going to have to write about comic books – That treasure trove of fantastic images and storytelling, a figurative well that I will always come back to, no matter how far away the journey of life takes me through the sands of time. And I think I just remembered my Uncle Ben.

Guys and gals, I am not sure that you realize how much I love comic books, but after this post is all said and done, I think you will have a much stronger idea of what I am talking about. But because this is timotheories and not some two-bit nexopia account from the early 2000s (playful teasing really, as I lived that life myself for a while), plus the fact that I cannot ever seem to write or talk about one subject without jumping into something else, we are going to use the medium of advanced puppet armour, or “the mascot” if you prefer, to dive into some interesting ideas and see what we can find.

First, let us have a history lesson. Did you know the etymology of the mascot is pretty broad? And reaches back almost 150 years? Yeah that’s the truth. Real talk even.

The word “mascot” was first popularized in an operetta called La Mascotte, which was, obviously, translated into English as The Mascot. Even more interesting is the notion that the word was meant to be used for a person, animal or object that is a symbolic figure for an organization, in particular, one that would bring good fortune. Pretty cool right? Previously though “mascot” was slang for the word “witch” and potentially also “spell.” We’ll come back to this seemingly minor anecdote further down the line dear readers, I promise.

Now that I’ve told you about the origin of mascots, and fortunately for us, origin stories are not an uncommon theme in a superhero story, I’m going to share with you some of my own experience with mascots. Specifically in thinking of their potential and then taking up the mantle on my own terms.

Once upon a time…

I had never wanted to be anyone other than myself, to be perfectly honest. I DID want to be a more interesting version of me and way more accessible to my peers though. High school was a pretty shitty time for me. But let’s be brutally honest, like Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter honest. I was singing that same tune that’s being covered so poorly a thousand times before, and I thought I was special. I thought I was Johnny Cash doing his rendition of Hurt by NIN and that it meant something. I thought I was pretty enough and funny enough and smart enough and that I just needed something life-altering to immortalize my unique image.

So not only was I going through puberty, realizing I was incredibly introverted, but my hormones had made me certifiably insane.

And yeah, it was just another dance at a high school full of intoxicated teenagers who were happy to get high on low grade marijuana and Bacardi breezers they had snaked from their “mature” older siblings. Nothing out of the ordinary there. In my mind though, I was finally starting to live life. I had made it through grade 10 and 11, and was a big man on campus.

Less than two months into senior year and I was one of two publicity chairmen on the student’s union. I wasn’t given the title of grand wizard, which actually happened to someone, but I was happy to be part of something larger than myself.

So when two of my new friends suggested that we head into the Student’s Union room to find something to bring out for the party, I was on board. We got into the locked room with our fancy SU keys and my pals immediately uncovered some awesome party beads. They had also brought lays for themselves and immediately put them on of course. Then Jill and Dustin, whose names have been altered because I didn’t ask their permission, had a brilliant idea.

Keep in mind I was 17, an introvert, who wanted to be cooler. Basically every 17 year old you’ve ever met.

The idea was that one of us should dress up as the high school mascot because it would build up school spirit, and given that I was the least vocal of the three amigos, it made sense for me to do it. That and the dinks wouldn’t let me wear their Hawaiian lays unless I did it. Apparently peer pressure worked that time. Also, as I’ve learned over the years, I get adrenaline rushes from the weirdest things. So I suited up.

The fan in the head barely worked, so I was immediately pretty damn hot. Also I was very sure no one had cleaned it out in at least a year or 2, despite the well worded lies of the teacher advisor who was voluntold to keep us in line. I mention this bouquet of smells because I think both heat stroke and nausea factored into my next few decisions.

We were heading into the dance.

While I was walking down the hall with my entourage it started to make sense why vigilantes in my favourite stories wore costumes. Whether they were good or bad, they had a special kind of power. The seemingly absolute freedom to act in ways I normally could not; it overwhelmed me at first. I WAS Rambo the mascot.

That walk awakened something in me. I was a superstar, more beautiful and graceful than any model living or dead. I was being cheered on by teachers and students alike as I did my exaggerated walk. There were so many high fives and hugs. And for a 17 year old boy with almost no social ability with the opposite sex, those hugs from girls felt amazing.

I began to dance gloriously to the music, and it felt right. I wish I could remember more of the sights and sounds inside the gymnasium, but I was pretty much blind in there. And the low hum of the fan combined with the heavy bass was not doing me any favours.

But then something happened. My conscience knew immediately what that arm on my shoulder meant. I was being herded out of the gym by two guys who I thought, in my moment of hyper paranoia, were going to throw me outside and beat me up…

Dear readers, I need to take a break right here.

It’s just occurred to me that we can’t have a healthy discussion about superheroes, costumes, and origin stories without employing a very powerful model of the medium.

The cliffhanger.

So I am going to exercise my right as the author of this story to keep you on the edge of your computer chairs, until next time. That’s right, we’re doing a post told in two parts folks. I promise it will be worth it. We’ll all learn a valuable lesson, and in the end, life will go on as intended.

Do I have any more theories today? No, unfortunately I’ve handed them all out. But now you can clip them, post them on your fridge, and then use them the next time you are out on the town and want to save someone the trouble of spending too much time and money on small talk.

Tim!