Tag Archives: ‘X-Men’

Review: ‘Logan’ brilliant end to Wolverine saga

“Logan” (R)

It seems that Hugh Jackman has saved his best performance as Wolverine for last.

Jackman, of course, defined the role of the adamantium-clawed mutant in 2000’s “X-Men” — and reprised the role eight more times (including the new film) in the ensuing years — is brilliant in “Logan,” which the actor previously announced would be his last turn in the movie saga.

Expertly directed by “The Wolverine” helmer James Mangold, “Logan” strips the “X-Men” mythos to the bare essentials, and in the process, results in a raw and compelling superhero adventure. Concentrating mainly on three mutants, the film easily sets itself apart from the previous “X-Men” films in story, character development and action.


Audio slideshow: James Mangold talks “Logan”

Based on the “Old Man Logan” storyline from the Marvel Comics, “Logan” is set in 2029, in a society where mutants have all but been eradicated, and Logan/Wolverine, Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Caliban (Stephen Merchant) take shelter in a run-down hideout on the Mexican border.

Old, cranky and sick, Logan and Charles are living a shadow of an existence, until a desperate woman tracks down Logan and pleads with him to transport a 10-year-old girl named Laura (a spectacular Dafne Keen) to a safe haven in northern part of the United States. Logan’s reluctant to do it, until a militaristic government organization shows up, seeking her capture. It turns out that the girl is a mutant as well, and her ties to Logan may be closer than he thinks.

Twentieth Century Fox definitely made the right move by allowing Jackman and Mangold to make “Logan” a R-rated film, the same sort of strategy that propelled “Deadpool” to worldwide blockbuster status last year. “Logan,” however, doesn’t have a wiseass tone like “Deadpool,” and is much more serious. It’s ultra-violent and bloody (what else would you expect from a guy with steely claws?), and without question earns the distinction of being the “John Wick” of superhero movies.

LINK:  See Tim Lammers’ archived video and audio interviews, including Denzel Washington, Casey Affleck, Angelina Jolie, Morgan Freeman, Hugh Jackman, Viola Davis, Francis Ford Coppola and more on  his new YouTube channel.

That’s not to say it doesn’t have its share of comedic moments, particularly between Logan and Charles, who bicker at each other like a pair of grumpy old men (or is it grumpy old mutants?). It’s a real hoot to hear Charles – the majestic professor in the previous films – drop the F-bombs like there’s no tomorrow.

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The sad part of “Logan” is, it appears to be the end of the road for Stewart as Charles, too. You can’t help but feel a sense of sadness as “Logan” wraps up, knowing that Jackman and the always-great Stewart are hanging it up.

But as we’ve learned in “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” there’s nothing ever final in the “X-Men” universe.

Lammometer: 9 (out of 10)

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Interview: Director James Mangold talks ‘Logan’

Don’t kid yourself: Even though the newest entry into the “X-Men” movie saga, “Logan,” draws its inspiration from the “Old Man Logan” storyline in the Marvel Comics series, this isn’t your grandpa’s Wolverine.

Starring the man who defined the role of Logan/Wolverine — Hugh Jackman — for the ninth and perhaps final time in the “X-Men” movie saga, it’s clear from the beginning of “Logan” that Jackman and director James Mangold, his collaborator on 2013’s “The Wolverine,” were going to make a decidedly different mutant film. Rated R and presented in gritty and brutally realistic fashion, Mangold and Jackman were intent on making sure Logan — as well as Patrick Stewart’s Professor Charles Xavier — had a deliberately harder edge to them.

Most importantly, however, unlike anything the saga’s fans have seen with the characters before, “Logan” finds the aging duo tired, ill and sadly, facing mortality. To do the film, Mangold said in a recent phone conversation from New York City, that sort of narrative was a must.

“I very much enjoy these movies as a whole, but I do think that they’ve gotten into a bit of a rut, in the sense that you could almost make a Mad Magazine version of these movies, where they always seem to be about some dark force arriving and is going to destroy the world,” Mangold said. “You can almost cut the trailer in your mind where some character is saying, ‘This is the worst we’ve ever faced,’ and if they don’t level a city, they level a continent, and if they don’t level a con

tinent, they blow up the Earth, and the threats, the stakes are always so high and global.”


Audio slideshow: James Mangold talks “Logan”

Quite simply, Mangold said, a movie like that simply has to dial things back not just a bit, but a lot.

“When you’re making a movie where there are 10 protagonists, a supervillain and five, giant set pieces of action, the principal characters end up with about four minutes of trying to sketch out their character problem and eradicate it later,” Mangold said. “It’s no wonder that sometimes we feel like these movies are emotionally flat or thin in characterization. The characters have devoted all their time to other tasks and become people making cameos in these giant spectacles.”

And spreading the characters too thin is only one of Mangold’s concerns.

“At some point, I think for me, that the old adage of ‘Less is more’ comes in,” said Mangold. “It’s where I’ve started experiencing an overload, where I’m sitting in a theater with the sound blasting and spectacular, amazing, insane visual effects, and I start to feel like Malcolm McDowell in ‘A Clockwork Orange,’ and I want my eyes to just roll up in my head and pass out because I’ve had enough. We really wanted to make a different film in tone in that sense. Yes, we wanted to deal with the mortality of the characters and their fragility, but we also wanted the space to explore those ideas without the sensory overload.”

Opening in theaters and on IMAX screens Friday, “Logan” finds Wolverine and Charles in the year 2029, where mutants are virtually extinct. Along with Charles and another mutant, Caliban (Stephan Merchant), Logan is forced out of his hiding on the border of Mexico when he is suddenly tasked to protect a young girl, Laura (Dafne Keen), who appears to have the same mutant abilities as he does. On the run from a militaristic government organization seeking her capture, Logan must find a way to transport Laura to a safe haven in the northern part of the U.S.

LINK:  See Tim Lammers’ archived video and audio interviews, including Denzel Washington, Casey Affleck, Angelina Jolie, Morgan Freeman, Hugh Jackman, Viola Davis, Francis Ford Coppola and more on  his new YouTube channel.

With far fewer mutants and subplots to concentrate on, Mangold had the benefit of not only making an “X-Men”-themed movie, but the opportunity to combine the mythology with the sensibilities of the previous character dramas he’s directed.

“Our real goal was to try to create enough space for ourselves, as if I were making ‘Copland,’ ‘Girl, Interrupted,’ ‘Walk the Line’ or ‘3:10 to Yuma’ or another one of my movies, and ask, ‘How can I take these really interesting characters that we have mainly only seen through the prism of these ‘Save the world’ storylines, and view them through a much more intimate storyline?’ Mangold recalled. “My initial proposal to Fox was that I wanted to make very bloody, existential version of ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ with Logan and Charles Xavier.”

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Apart from the graphic violence (Logan has adamantium claws, after all, so they’re going to cause some damage), the purposefully R-rated film has its share of F-bombs, and the explosive use of the language doesn’t come from the idea of using the word simply because they can, but because there is meaning behind it. When you see and hear, perhaps shockingly so, that the aging Charles suddenly has a penchant for dropping the F-bomb, you’ll understand why.

“Many people have gone through it — even with very graceful parents — where that moment sets in and your systems are failing you, it’s incredible sometimes to hear ‘The Exorcist’-level of obscenity to come out of an old person’s mouth where their world is losing its moorings a little bit,” Mangold said. “But the use of the language also, honestly, fits in the whole tone of the film from the beginning to the end. It’s just a little bit more raw than what we’ve seen in the other pictures. That was quite intentional.”

Photo: Twentieth Century Fox

While Jackman and Stewart are naturally the names on the marquee that people will instantly recognize, there are many times where Keen, whose storyline is quite significant in “Logan,” steals the show from both of them. What’s amazing is that she commands your attention at times even in a non-verbal way, and that was only one of the many requirements Mangold had for the integral character.

“She’s incredible. We searched high and low, and it wasn’t exactly easy. I said I needed someone between 10 and 12 years of age, physically capable, brilliant actress, Hispanic descent and bilingual. Now you try that on,” Mangold mused. “Worldwide, that adds up to producing about five or six kids. When the tape arrived in an email from London of this wonderful 10-year-old at that time who was reading for this part — it was this little iPhone tape that he dad had made of her, climbing around on bookcases and doing a couple of scenes — I knew the second I saw it without even meeting her that she was the young woman for the part.”

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Interview: Famke Janssen talks sacrifices, emotional impact of ‘Taken 3’

This shouldn’t come as a big surprise to anybody with an interest in “Taken 3,” mainly because of the big plot reveal in the trailers and television spots for the final installment in the “Taken” franchise: Things do not end well for Famke Janssen’s beloved character, Lenore.

In a phone call from New York Wednesday, Janssen told me not only did she know before she read the film’s script that something tragic was going to happen to Lenore – the ex-wife of former CIA operative Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) – she wholeheartedly embraced the idea instead of getting depressed by it.

Quite simply, the charismatic actress said, the gut-wrenching event was a necessity to drive the plot of “Taken 3” forward.

“It was a smart decision to make to kill off Lenore, especially given the fact that we have spent two movies with them as a family and have rooted for Lenore and Bryan to get back into a romantic relationship,” Janssen said. “Because of that, the emotional impact of what happens to Lenore is much greater than if a random person had been picked to be taken. It’s more powerful to have somebody Bryan’s becoming close to again in his life be killed.”

Famke Janssen in 'Taken 3' (photo - Fox)
Famke Janssen in ‘Taken 3’ (photo: 20th Century Fox)

Opening in theaters nationwide on Friday, “Taken 3” finds Bryan framed for the murder and on the run from the CIA, FBI and police authorities, a

nd trying desperately to clear his name amid the devastation. Also never one to back down, Bryan once again employs his “particular set of skills” to find the real killers and protect his and Lenore’s daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace), from any harm.

The “Taken” franchise has been a thrilling ride for viewers since 2008, starting with the kidnapping and liberation of Kim by her father in the first film; followed up the targeting of Bryan and Lenore by Kim’s captors in the second installment of the trilogy in 2012.

Janssen believes the reason the “Taken” movies are so popular with audiences is, despite all the extraordinary action and intrigue the characters experience, moviegoers can still relate to it on a human level. Most people, after all, are driven by a primal instinct to protect their family members from all harm no matter the cost.

“They all probably hope that they have somebody in their lives like Liam Neeson, who is going to go out and protect and fight for them — and avenge for them if needed,” Janssen said. “That’s why the films have struck a chord with people.”

In “Taken 3,” it appears that Neeson’s character’s passion to protect his family has no doubt had an effect on Lenore, as the two are on the verge of getting back together before the tragedy. Their possible re-coupling was a well-thought out plot development, Janssen said, and she’s glad the filmmakers didn’t throw the two back together willy-nilly after Bryan’s heroics in the first film.

“Revisiting the first film, it’s pretty clear that he hadn’t been there for years for his daughter,” Janssen observed. “Of course, everybody still loved him when he appeared on screen and hated me, but he clearly hadn’t been the greatest father — we have to remember that. He tries really hard to make up for it, even though it’s by giving his grown-up daughter a stuffed panda.”

Future/past
Despite her untimely demise in “Taken 3,” one thing that Janssen has discovered — at least in the “X-Men” films — is just because it seems like it’s all over, doesn’t mean it’s over. After her character, Jean Grey, met a tragic end in “X-Men: The Last Stand,” it didn’t seem possible we’d see the telepath’s streaming, fiery red locks on screen again — that is until some unique, dream world storytelling in “The Wolverine” and her revival in “Days of Future Past” revealed a world of new opportunities for the character.

From what’s been reported so far, it appears that franchise will carry forth for the time in being in “X-Men: Apocalypse” with the younger, prequel version of the characters. But in the event writer-director Bryan Singer calls her for a future “X-Men” film, Janssen said she’ll jump at the opportunity to play Jean again.

“Of course, I’d love to be back, but I think, realistically, with the way ‘Days of Future Past’ ends, is that it’s going back to the 1980s and there will be a much younger Jean Grey,” said Janssen, 50. “The great thing about ‘Days of Future Past’ is you don’t know where the next story lines are going to lead.”

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As for this casting a younger Jean Grey business, I told Janssen not to sell herself short about the filmmakers finding somebody 20-30 years junior taking over the role. Despite hitting the milestone birthday in November, the stunning actress still gives the appearance that she stopped aging at 30.

Besides, Janssen said, people should take note of their surroundings, and only think of age as a mere number. Maybe, in a sort of way, the way Lenore’s life is cut short in “Taken 3” makes Janssen’s point all the more poignant.

“As far as it comes to aging, I always say, ‘It’s better than the opposite.’ We should feel lucky to be here, and there are many worse things in life than aging,” Janssen said, humbly. “I think aging makes us wiser than ever before, and more thankful to be alive.”

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