Aging X-Man Logan escorts a disabled Charles Xavier and a ferocious young girl to Canada.
Directed by James Mangold
Starring Hugh Jackman, Dafne Keen, and Charles Xavier
Initial Review by Jon Kissel
Hugh Jackman's portrayed Logan, otherwise known as Wolverine, in nine films dating back seventeen years. Over that period, the X-Men films featuring Jackman have been all over the map, spanning from the execrable to the entertaining. However, he's never been at the center of a film like Logan, his final bravura outing in the role. While the X-Men films keep getting bigger, with larger casts and greater destruction, the stand-alone Wolverine films keep getting smaller as the casts constrict and there's a turn toward the internal. That focus bears substantial fruit in Logan, by far the best X-Men film in the extended franchise, and one of the best superhero films in the present era that Wolverine and the X-Men arguably kicked off.
Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron returns to his homeland for Roma, an autobiographical film about an upper class family in Mexico City. Cuaron last filmed in Mexico for Y Tu Mama Tambien, an all-timer that also backdropped Mexican political strife against regular people living their lives. Roma features less horny teenagers than his first masterpiece, and instead focuses on the family maid caught in the throes of her own personal drama, the family’s dissolution, and protests in the streets. Like the best films, Roma gives the impression that concurrent stories are happening around the one being told here, and I went into this film sure that it would knock me out. However, Roma somehow never breaks through my emotional barriers, leaving me to praise and admire it but not exalt it as the modern masterpiece that so many critics have hailed it as.
This is our first review of 2019, so what better way to start it off than to talk about how 2018 went for the movie business? Disney’s many properties grossed 63% of the total grosses of the top ten, and 47% of the top 20, with the top three earners of the year all sending money back to the House of Mouse. Add in the properties from Fox, which will be brought under the Disney umbrella at the end of the month, and those numbers bump up to 71% and 57%. This is a monopoly concern, but for Ralph Breaks the Internet, it’s an opportunity to stuff all these properties in one film. The original Wreck-It Ralph did the same with video game characters, but the difference is between characters whose moments have passed (Zangief, Q-Bert) and characters that show up on theater screens every year. It makes me queasy from a commercial standpoint, and as far as the film that contains billions of dollars worth of intellectual property, it makes it lazy. The silence that engulfed the theater during long stretches Ralph Breaks the Internet is a sign that complacency has overtaken a property that started strong. Why write a strong joke when Iron Man can be in the background?
I’ve never been a fan of Harry Potter, as it’s readily apparent that the movies are too small for the books and are therefore reduced to multi-million dollar games of Spot the Reference. Save for an Alan Rickman performance or an Alfonso Cuaron direction here or there, they’re joyless and perfunctory. The non-reader can sense that any emotional power derived from the movies is built atop a more in-depth depiction on the page, and without that foundation, there’s little there. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them should be free from this shackling. It has to ultimately sync up with Potter, but that’s decades away. Building the world beyond an English boarding school expands the scope and potentially makes it easier to digest for viewers who have no interest in thousands of pages of mythology. However, David Yates has learned all the wrong lessons from a career spent almost entirely in the Wizarding World, and here, he makes a film somehow more impenetrable than a filmed adaptation of a 600 page tome.
If a theme had to be forced onto the films that just happen to have been released in 2018, despair comes to mind. It’s been present in works ranging from arthouse indies like Eighth Grade and You Were Never Really Here to the big-budget spectacles of Avengers: Infinity War and Deadpool 2. Nowhere is despair more prevalent than in Paul Schrader’s haunting First Reformed, where all forms and all scales of dread are encapsulated by another of Schrader’s ‘god’s lonely men.’ Calling to mind the spare, religious-inflected introspection of mid-century masters like Robert Bresson, First Reformed is a bleak rebuke of hope and a dense treatise in search of it.
JUST SOME IDIOTS GIVING SURPRISINGLY AVERAGE MOVIE REVIEWS.