Logan Review

The X-Men film franchise is one of the most lopsided film series out there.  The first two films helped to define modern superhero cinema.  Origins was mediocre at best, terrible at worst.  First Class helped to restore my faith in the franchise, while Apocalypse was a massive letdown.  I’ve come to learn that it may be best to go into an X-Men film with no expectations to help lessen any potential disappointment.  I forewent that that rule with Logan.  I’ve been 100% hype for that film since the very moment rumors of an Old Man Logan film started making their way to the internet.  I was not disappointed.

The timeline in the X-Men films is so convoluted and filled with inconsistencies that it almost doesn’t matter when or how this film takes place.  It’s 2029, mutants are a thing of the past, Logan is a bitter old man and a heavy drinker, and Charles is kept locked up in a collapsed water tower.  It’s a tragically bleak setting with a compelling backstory that doesn’t get fleshed out in heavy-handed dialogue.  Instead, audiences are left to connect the dots as characters engage in conversations that have a real-world, organic feel.  There are no moments where the film breaks character to tell you something.  Every bit of dialogue that is spoken is said to someone who has lived in this world – someone who is familiar with what has happened over the last decade.  Viewers are visitors in this world, and it’s a harsh world that won’t welcome in anyone with open arms.  But those who take the time to familiarize themselves with their surroundings and its history will be well rewarded.

It’s been 17 years since the X-Men film franchise debuted and, since the initial film, each movie has been a (mostly) family-friendly PG-13 (Deadpool excepted).  With Logan, fans are treated with the brutally hard-R rated film they’ve been waiting for.  Seventeen years is appropriate timing for an R-rated goodbye to the two best roles in the franchise, even if it is hard to say “goodbye.”  Logan takes full advantage of its elevated rating, featuring some of the most graphic scenes in a comic book film not based on the works of Frank Miller.  But the brutality, the graphic violence, the language – none of it ever feels forced.  As organic as the dialogue is in the film, the violence on display feels equally appropriate.

As rewarding as it is to see The Wolverine in his full glory ripping through body parts with his adamantium claws, there’s a contrasting balance as the weight of his exploits weighs heavily on him.  He has long ago reached a point where this violence is something so ingrained in him that there’s nothing but a buried conscience and aching bones keeping the claws in.  The graphic action sequences and the aftermath that follows is a poetically beautiful visual of this ongoing, internal struggle that just happens to be fun to watch.

There’s a beauty in the subtler aspects of the film.  When it’s not gracing you with sharp dialogue and viscerally brutal fight scenes, Logan navigates deftly through the film’s narrative by omitting direct exposition.  The film tells you more by saying less.  Important plot points and backstories are often not told directly to the audience – they’re hinted at with offhand remarks or background noise that feels natural.  It never dumbs things down to let you know what happened, it expects you to embrace this world enough to just know.

While several of the previous X-Men films have been enjoyable in their own right, it’s sad see that the franchise waited until the two greatest players said their goodbyes to offer a truly great film.  It is a well-crafted experience that will challenge the idea of what makes a comic movie great – taking viewers on a journey through their emotional range before leaving them seated in silence as the cinema fades to black.  There may never be an X-Men movie that achieves the same level of greatness as Logan.  And that’s okay.

Good – 3 / 3

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Podcast 5 – June 22 2016

Podcast 4 – June 15 2016

Telltale’s Walking Dead Season 3 trailer

Telltale Games has released an in-engine trailer for the upcoming third season of their The Walking Dead series of games.  The game will be set a few years after Season 2, and Clementine is confirmed to be returning.  Players with saves for the first two seasons will find the decisions they made have an impact on the story in Season 3.  Along with Clementine, players will be taking control of a new character, Javier, who is described on the Telltale blog as “a fellow survivor who has been through hell, and has managed to remain alive as long as Clem.”  Little else was revealed about the game, but it is expected to be released this fall.

Telltale unveils screens from Batman

Telltale’s Batman game was announced at last year’s The Game Awards in December.  Telltale has arrived prior to the start of this year’s E3 to unveil some screenshots of the upcoming adventure game.  Also revealed is the game’s voice cast which features Troy Baker as The Bat himself.  The list of voices joining Troy Baker in the game’s cast is as follows: Travis Willingham as Harvey Dent, Erin Yvette as Vicki Vale, Enn Reitel as Alfred Pennyworth, Murphy Guyer as Lieutenant James Gordon, Richard McGonagle as Carmine Falcone, and Laura Bailey as Selina Kyle.  Telltale is promising more reveals of characters and cast as the season progresses.

Kevin Bruner, Telltale’s CEO, said the following about their upcoming Batman game:

“We’ve been hard at work at Telltale creating an all-new iteration of the iconic Batman story that puts players in the suit of billionaire Bruce Wayne, just as much as it will put them behind the mask, deciding how to carefully navigate a complex drama, rich with action, crime, corruption, and villainy lurking around every corner of Gotham City. The complex life and fractured psyche of Bruce Wayne has lent itself to becoming a bold evolution of the signature ‘Telltale’ role-playing experience, and we couldn’t be more excited as we prepare to debut the series to players across the world this summer.”

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows Review

The very idea of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a silly one.  Initially a parody of other popular comics in the 80s, TMNT would explode in its own popularity spanning a series of television shows, live-action and animated movies, and arcade and console games.  While it’s certainly not as popular nowadays as it was in its heyday, the fact that the four turtles are still recognizable to children over thirty years later is a testament to the brand’s appeal.  The Turtles are back in cinemas this summer in Out of the Shadows, the sequel to the 2014 reboot of the film franchise.  Is it worth a watch?

The film begins with an animated stunt sequence and a short break at a basketball game before diving into a little plot.  It’s fun enough, but serves little purpose other than a silly gag featuring the anthropomorphic turtles’ dish of choice:  pizza.  From there, audiences are “treated” to a gratuitous amount of Megan Fox doing that thing she does in movies.  The dialogue exchange between Fox’s April O’Neil and Tyler Perry’s Dr. Baxter Stockman is hammy and dumb, but it feels consistent with the overall tone of the film.  Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about the sequence that follows as April sheds her outer layer for a quick costume change to make sure the film gets in its requisite sex appeal.

The story is set one year after the last film.  Shredder has been defeated and is in prison.  Will Arnett’s Vern Fenwick is, according to an agreement made with the Turtles, regarded as the hero who brought down The Shredder.  And, thanks to this agreement, the Turtles are able to remain in the shadows protecting New York.

After our detour at the basketball game, we learn that The Shredder is being transported and there’s a plan to break him out.  This sets up a solid highway chase sequence with as many laughs and explosions as there are groans.  Some of the dialogue is just plain stupid but, most times, it works favorably for the film.  The actors know they’re in a silly movie and they appear to be having fun with that, chewing through some painful writing with a mouthful of cheese and a toothy grin.

The plot opens up after the highway scene with what could have been something awesome: Krang and Dimension X.  Unfortunately, exposition is not one of this movie’s strong points.  I’d like to say it’s formulaic in its plot progression, but that would be giving the film far too much credit.  It tries to be – it pretty rapidly moves from point to point to point, but each point is a misstep on a scenic route for about two thirds of the movie.  After it finally takes us somewhere we want to be, the film forgets the fact that an important item has gone missing so it can rehash some group conflict that was already covered in the first movie.  While the Turtles are caught up in their moody discourse and shunning of each other, the bad guys get to move forward with their evil plot.  It’s all good, though, because we need that to happen for that final boss fight – which is, sadly, less spectacular than it should be given everything that’s involved.

Out of the Shadows does a solid job keeping the Turtles true to their roots while keeping them updated enough so they don’t feel like they’re trapped in the 90s.  Contrasting this, you have Bebop and Rocksteady.  The character designs are perfect, even if the execution is a little off.  Despite how good the CG renders of the Turtles are, Bebop and Rocksteady never really look believable in this world.  Still, it is fun seeing them on the big screen – even if there are some missteps with how the characters are handled.  As if to make sure the film wouldn’t get a PG rating, the two need to check their nether regions to see how everything was changed after their mutation.  It’s a small thing, but something that doesn’t jibe with the rest of the film, regardless how messy it is.

The problem with the film isn’t the campy dialogue and one-liners – while some lines definitely don’t work and the script is quite a mess, the Turtles’ banter and Mikey’s quips are, more often than not, enjoyable.  The problem is the film’s nonsensical plot and incoherent editing.  I’m not expecting Shakespearean level art here, but staying focused on a single idea instead of pointless tangents would make the film a little more watchable (I can’t call them subplots, because these detours don’t have any plot).  Its few shining moments are far outweighed by the wasted potential, misguided writing, and shoehorned sexuality.  This could have easily been a great summer film anyone could enjoy.  Unfortunately, the end result is something that can be entertaining in short bursts, but offers little enjoyment as a whole.

 

Bad – 1 / 3

Podcast 2 – June 1 2016

The latest PowerUP Online Podcast is now up!  We apologize for the audio issues this week – we had an issue during the recording process we didn’t realize until after the recording was completed.  We have taken measures to ensure better audio quality in the future.