DVD Reviews Archives - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Logan (2017)

Logan, the once near-invincible fighting beast, is dying.  Age is catching up to his healing powers and the adamantium skeleton bolstering his strength is poisoning him.  Logan's presented with an opportunity to do some good, lead kids to a safe haven, and give his now struggling mentor one last chance to instruct his wayward pupil.  James Mangold directs Logan, with the screenplay written by James Mangold, Scott Frank, and Michael Green, and stars Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, and Dafne Keen.

One of my rules for reviewing movies is to do my best to separate myself from other critical writing.  That was damn near impossible in the case of Logan which, hopefully, stands as the last time director James Mangold and Hugh Jackman team up.  Most of my cineaste circles praised Logan as a gritty, heartfelt, and stirring return to form with American Western cinematic motifs sprinkled throughout.  With respect to those who hold that opinion, the only sign Logan is operating in the world of Westerns is the appearance of the classic Shane.  It's like listening to people talk about how The Winter Soldier was like a '70s paranoid thriller with barely a thought about how the aesthetics actually contribute to the genre.

The inspiration Logan draws from has more to do with fables than it does lone gunmen riding off into the sunset.  In this frame, and not one of a Western, Mangold and Jackman do a spectacular job creating a fable with no strong moral point to make save the sins visited on children to become stronger for the future.  Logan recalls Joe Wright's wonderfully violent fable Hanna than it does Mangold's own 3:10 to Yuma and is all the stronger for it.  The X-Men cinematic series and its various offshoots have screwed up their overt social commentary so many times that it's refreshing to see Logan jettison that for a dreamy road trip.

Typical Western conventions involve a collision between civilizing and frontier forces, questioning honor in a locale where the term has shifting value, and battles over the "soul" of a community.  Logan features a long-depressed warrior going on a cross-country adventure with a mentally powerful wizard on his last legs and a child prodigy raised to be a feral weapon.  Heck, there's even a supposed magical sanctuary at the end of all this, and potions that help bring the warrior back his former fighting spirit.


Elvis & Nixon (2016)

In 1970, Elvis got bored of his wife and father complaining about how much money he was spending, so he decided to go to Washington D.C. to get a Federal Narcotics badge.  Nixon, struggling to connect with the American youth, trusts his aides that this is an okay idea.  Liza Johnson directs Elvis & Nixon, with the screenplay written by Joey Sagal, Hanala Sagal, and Cary Elwes, and stars Michael Shannon and Kevin Spacey.

In addition to providing whichever partisan slant you subscribe to, the major news networks provide the exciting alternative to actual governance.  Watch a few hours of C-SPAN and you'll see that the day-to-day actions of running the government boil down to a lot of bookkeeping.  That's not a bad thing, and while the fistfights in other governments might be good for intrigue they're bad for healthy functioning.  Keeping this in mind, Elvis & Nixon is more accurate to how the government really works than any number of political dramas.

I can't say I was expecting Elvis & Nixon to be so dry I felt the need for an IV drip at one point.  But I can't say it was very entertaining either.  Big surprise all things considered as Michael Shannon, playing the "king of rock and roll", and Kevin Spacey, getting to play the President whose scheming is surely felt in House of Cards, are both actors who often swing for the fences.  The shock relative to Elvis & Nixon is they both play their roles relatively straight and there's little wiggle room to ham it up.


Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising (2016)

The battle over real estate value begins once more as the Radners, looking to move their home out of escrow, take on the new sorority filled with girls who are tired of rules around their partying.  Nicholas Stoller directs Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, with the screenplay written by Nicholas Stoller, Andrew Jay Cohen, Brendan O'Brien, Evan Goldberg, and Seth Rogen, and stars Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, Zac Efron, and Chloë Grace Moretz.

Seth Rogen's recent run of socially conscious films has been a disaster.  It's hard to place an exact starting point but I'd have to say it was The Interview, where the satirical potency is rendered toothless by Rogen and company casually glossing over the sexual slavery to get to the yuks about Rogen sticking capsules up his bum.  I thought it wouldn't get worse than that, but little did I suspect Sausage Party was on the horizon with its brazen arrogance on religion.

Now comes Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, where the level of feminist knowledge applied to the plot consists of mostly dry reproduction of facts in the dialogue.  The strongest indicator we're dealing with bargain basement feminism is in one of the last scenes involving women telling other women it's okay to dress how they want.  It's "woke" dialogue 101, taking one of the most easily communicated points about cultural relativism with respect to dress and presenting it as a climactic thought on sisterhood.  Sit with me in stunned silence while we process that five men needed almost an hour and a half to get that across.


Done?  Alright, let's move on to the rest of this disappointment.


Hardcore Henry (2016)

Henry wakes up in a lab with no memories and new cybernetic implants.  Estelle, his wife, said this had to be done to save his life.  Soon the lab is under attack by the telekinetic Akan and Henry, with his battery running low, goes on the run.  Ilya Naishuller wrote the screenplay for and directs Hardcore Henry, and stars Sharlto Copley, Danila Kozlovsky, and Haley Bennett, with Henry played by Ilya Naishuller, Sergey Valyaev, and Andrei Dementiev.

My way of coping with the trials of daily existence is to intellectualize things.  That way, I can start sorting my various emotions and people's reactions to them while forming a list of potential reading or research needed to understand the world better.  I do this so naturally that it's sometimes difficult for me to really communicate how something makes me feel.  So, in the interest of pushing myself outside my comfort zone, here's how I feel about Hardcore Henry:

Hardcore Henry made me feel awesome.  So damn awesome.  Just when I thought the ridiculous escalation of violence and camerawork couldn't get any cooler, director/screenwriter Ilya Naishuller found a new way to make my face erupt in joy.  By the time the climactic fight rolled around, I couldn't contain my giggling anymore.  Each punch, each cut, each bit of chemical intake - it all made me so joyful I wanted to stop Hardcore Henry before the credits so I could watch it again.  I immediately started texting my cineaste buddies and folks I thought would appreciate the lunatic aweseomeness of Hardcore Henry - "Watch Hardcore Henry.  Now.  It's more than its gimmick.  It's insane."


Everybody Wants Some!! (2016)

College officially starts in three days - just enough time for the baseball team to get comfortable with the freshman, hook up at parties, imbibe some chemicals, and share a little philosophy.  Richard Linklater wrote the screenplay for and directs Everybody Wants Some!!, and stars an ensemble cast led by Blake Jenner and Glen Powell.

When Matthew McConaughey's David Wooderson rolled into Richard Linklater's Dazed and Confused, he condensed all the pleasures and problems with Linklater's writing by uttering, “That’s what I love about these high school girls, man. I get older, they stay the same age.”  The trick to that line, and how similar Linklater dialogue worked in the interim, is that the speaker is pathetic.  Other boys in the same scene take turns joking around with him, but when he utters the line they all have to avert their gaze and in low volume tell him he's going to jail some day.  Fun is fun until the reality of fun is checking out girls barely half his age.

Cut to twenty-three years later and Linklater has continued making great filmsEverybody Wants Some!! (Everybody moving forward) is not one of them, though not without its charm.  Unfortunately, the charm is attached to a mob of college men who took the lessons of David Wooderson to heart.  They're all bravado to the point of transparent cockiness, many sporting mustaches to varying degrees of success, and chase dream women who want to have sex with them as much as the men want to have sex with the women.  Everybody is the dream Wooderson has when he goes home alone and I spent most of the movie wondering if anyone would wake up.