Dir: James Mangold
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Kean, Boyd Holbrook, Stephan Merchant, Eriq La Salle, Richard E. Grant
Much bleaker and darker (and bloodier) than any super-hero comic book movie before it, Logan is a fitting send-off for Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine, a character that made his cinematic debut way back in 2000 with the first X-Men movie. Jackman has essayed the role eight times previously, including two solo Wolverine films, however, the first (X-Men Origins: Wolverine) was pretty much a misfire and the second (The Wolverine) was only marginally better. Considering that Jackman had decided to hang up his claws after his third attempt this was his final chance to get it right and, thankfully, he and director James Mangold (who also directed The Wolverine) do not just get it right but, actually, hit a home run.
Set in the not too distant future (2029, to be exact) the movie begins with a Logan/Wolverine whose body is breaking down and his healing factor isn’t as effective as before. It is also a world where no other mutant appears to be alive. What exactly has happened to bring the world to its current state? As the mystery unfolds, we meet the other mutant survivors (Professor Xavier is one of them) and Logan is charged with delivering a ferocious young mute girl, Laura (Dafne Kean, quite a find) to safety, protecting her from cyborg killers known as the Reavers. Laura’s connection to Wolverine becomes clear as we go along (comic book readers will already be in on the secret) and she, Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Logan develop an unusual family dynamic on their unusual road trip.
The movie plays like an old Western, an elegy portraying the last days of an aging gunfighter (clips from the classic Shane draw some obvious parallels) and with all its explosive and bloody violence (the movie is R-rated, a directorial choice which makes sense in context) ends up being surprisingly moving, buoyed by excellent performances from Jackman, Stewart and Kean.
This is certainly not your typical superhero film. I was surprised and stirred by it. You probably will be too.
Cut to chase: Intense, involving and surprisingly moving.
Dir: John Musker, Ron Clements
Starring: (voices of) Auli’i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, Rachel House, Jemaine Clement, Nicole Scherzinger
Beautifully animated and with a catchy soundtrack by the Broadway musical Hamilton’s Lin-Manuel Miranda, long-time Disney composer-arranger Mark Mancina, and Opetaia Foa’i, the lead singer of the South Pacific fusion band Te Vaka, Moana proves to be another winner from Disney. The titular character (voiced by Auli’i Cravalho) is a teenaged Polynesian girl all set to take over the mantle from her chieftain father on a Polynesian island. Only problem is Moana’s wanderlust which comes into direct conflict with her father’s strict instructions for all the islanders to not travel too far beyond the shore. However, when the island’s very existence is threatened Moana has no choice to set off on a quest (with only a stow-away addled chicken -Hei-hei – for company) for the demi-god Maui (a very funny Dwayne Johnson) to seek his aid in helping her save her people.
The movie’s highlights include some very amusing sequences including a scene-stealing giant hermit crab’s (Jemaine Clement) ode to his self and to his avarice “Shiny” and a witty self-awareness: when Moana firmly declares that she is not a princess, Maui simply states, “If you wear a dress and have an animal sidekick, you’re a princess.” Nominated for this year’s Best Animated Film and directed by John Musker and Ron Clements (The Little Mermaid) Moana also effectively delivers the twin messages of girl-power and man’s co-existence with the environment and the elements.
Cut to chase: Charming and fun.
Rating system: *Not on your life ** Hardly worth the bother ** ½ Okay for a slow afternoon only *** Good enough for a look see *** ½ Recommended viewing **** Don’t miss it **** ½ Almost perfect ***** Perfection