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22. Logan – This Just In (#37)

This is what podcasting looks like. You should take a moment. Really feel it.

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney and this week with special guest John Hanney, This Just In is a subset of the fortnightly The 250 podcast, looking at notable new arrivals on the list of the 250 best movies of all-time, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users.

This time, James Mangold’s Logan.

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Non-Review Review: Logan

Logan is a powerful piece of blockbuster cinema, an R-rated feature film that recognises the distinction between “adult” and “mature.”

Logan is unashamedly a comic book movie. There is no getting around that. It features all manner of fantastic trappings, from Charles Xavier’s telepathy to self-driving trucks to clones to cyborgs. Logan is a film that revels in its superhero trappings, in particular the genre’s tendency to appropriate imagery and iconography from wider popular culture to fashion something unique and distinct. Logan is a superhero post-apocalyptic western road movie, and is unapologetic about that.

Bloody murder.

Bloody murder.

However, Logan never lets any of that get in the way of what is essentially a very intimate and personal story about a surrogate family unit and what it means to be a parent in a cruel and uncaring world. Logan is very much character-driven, using a very simple story to delve into its characters in a way that feels earned and nuanced. As much as Logan is proud of its more outlandish elements, it never allows them to crowd out a simple story about growing up and growing old.

Logan is a superb piece of cinema, one that knows when to go quiet and when to go loud, approaching its central character with considerable empathy and dignity.

A driving plot.

A driving plot.

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Non-Review Review: Pan

There is something delightfully off-kilter about Pan, to the point that it seems almost surprising that it got made.

After all, Peter Pan doesn’t seem to need an origin story. All the core ingredients are included in the original stories that J.M. Barrie wrote at the start of the twentieth century, allowing generations of other writers to improvise and elaborate around a rather robust blueprint. Steven Spielberg hit on an interesting idea in theory (if not necessarily execution) in Hook, producing a sequel imagining what might happen if the boy who never grew up… actually grew up. However, there does not seem to be an equivalently interesting hook into a prequel story.

Don't be so harsh, Blackbeard...

Don’t be so harsh, Blackbeard…

Indeed, there is very little in Pan that connects it to its source material, beyond a few overlapping names and sly in-jokes. Captain Blackbeard meditates on Neverland as the realm of death, alluding to the historical context of the stories, but the film is absolutely fascinated by the concept of death in Neverland. James Hook might be taunted with a “tick tock” and dangle his hand in crocodile-infested waters, but the film has very little interesting to say about his relationship with Peter Pan beyond falling back on the trope of suggesting that they were once friends.

However, there is something fascinating about the execution of Pan. Even if the script doesn’t hold together, and the film often seems like two-hours of punk pop candy floss, there is an endearingly gonzo quality to the film that makes its complete refusal to work all the more interesting.

Sheets to the wind...

Sheets to the wind…

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Non-Review Review: Prisoners

Prisoners is very much a game of two halves. Feeling like two separate films grafted together, Prisoners feels at once like a psychological exploration of American masculinity and also a far more conventional serial killer film. Indeed, had director Denis Villeneuve and writer Aaron Guzikowski decided to cut suddenly to black two-thirds of the way through Prisoners, we’d have a frustrating but much more cohesive atmospheric drama.

Instead, it seems like the duo conspired to surgically attach the last act from a far more conventional thriller on to their robust framework. The result is intriguing, but disappointing – the conventional paint-by-numbers final third diminishing a lot of the richness to be found in the first section of the film.

Somebody is about to get Jack(man)ed...

Somebody is about to get Jack(man)ed…

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Non-Review Review: The Wolverine

The Wolverine is pretty far from a perfect film. In the era following The Dark Knight, we’ve come to expect more ambition from our superhero blockbusters; tighter plots; well-drawn character arcs and motivations for more than just our heroes. In a summer where some have fallen just short of working within this new paradigm (Man of Steel) and others have succeeded (Iron Man 3), The Wolverine feels like a conscious throwback. It’s a nineties action movie masquerading as a superhero blockbuster. Had it been released in 2007, it would have been well-received.

And yet, there’s something quite fascinating and compelling about The Wolverine, despite the noticeable problems with the script’s third act. Director James Mangold struggles to keep things under control for as long as possible, Hugh Jackman still has a wonderful charm in the eponymous role, and The Wolverine has a fascinating thematic through-line and an approach to inter-movie continuity which is intriguing and strangely satisfying.

The Wolverine falls short of greatness, but it’s still a fun and enjoyable ride.

"You lookin' at me, bub?"

“You lookin’ at me, bub?”

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Watch! New Wolverine Trailer!

I’m actually slightly looking forward to The Wolverine. Yes, I’m aware that X-Men Origins: Wolverine was… less than good. On the other hand, I have a soft spot for James Mangold, and I like the idea of giving the character a (relatively) fresh start free from all the continuity and characters of the previous X-Men films. I’m not expecting an instant classic, just a nice popcorn film.

Enjoy!

 

Watch! The Wolverine Trailer!

I’ve been a bit less than impressed with the publicity work for The Wolverine. A trailer for a trailer? Exclusive teaser footage released via two avenues? It just seems a little counter-productive and more frustrating than intriguing. Following the reaction to both X-Men III and X-Men: Origins – Wolverine, you’d think that the trick would be to offer as much proof that things had turned around as possible, and as quickly as possible. Suspense works if we’re already sold. It doesn’t work if we’re more cautious than curious.

And I say that with a hint of optimism for The Wolverine. I actually quite like James Mangold. I even sort of enjoyed Knight and Day, probably much more than I should have. Hugh Jackman is charming enough you can forgive him anything. And the movie is based on the character’s defining solo story. Plus, you know, the trailer looks to borrow that pulpy charm of inserting Wolverine into popular history (in this case, World War II), which as much Wolverine’s mutant superpower as healing or claws. So I’m still on board.

Anyway, check out the trailer below and let me know what you think.