Tag Archives: Stephen Merchant

Logan (2017)

I literally just got back from watching the highly anticipated Logan, supposedly the last time we will ever see Hugh Jackman as the clawed superhero that first made him famous 17 years ago. And in all honesty, I am still stunned by just how good it is. After the maligned X-Men Origins: Wolverine and the better-but-not-good-enough The Wolverine, we finally have a Wolverine standalone film that does the iconic character justice.

As the title of the film suggests, Logan is a deeply personal story about an aging, struggling Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) whose powers are fading. The only thing keeping him going is his sense of obligation to Professor X (Patrick Stewart), whose failing mental faculties make him an extremely dangerous mutant. As the trailers and posters foreshadow, a young girl named Laura is thrust into his life, turning all his plans upside down and setting the wheels of the narrative in motion.

The X-Men films have never really cared about continuity, and it would be wise to not get caught up in all the nitty gritty of past entries in the franchise. In fact, you don’t need to have watched a single X-Men film to get this movie or really enjoy it. It actually works perfectly as a standalone. All you really need is to know that it’s set in the not-too-distant future and have a general idea of who the characters are and what mutant powers they possess, because director and co-writer James Mangold does a fabulous job of immersing audiences in the world of the story without an excessive amount of exposition. But of course, if you’ve followed Jackman’s version of the character for 17 years, the bittersweet nostalgia gets pretty heavy too.

What drew me so much to Logan in the first place was the first trailer, which felt eerily similar in story and tone to The Last of Us (in my view the best video game of all time), which is about a disillusioned, bearded, middle-aged man and a young girl trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic world. I’m glad to say that Logan isn’t that similar to The Last of Us in premise, but it does have shades of what made the video game so engrossing — the characters, the character development, the relationships, and the world building. And that’s what really makes Logan a success — you feel for the characters and you feel their hopes and their pain. In many ways, it’s a film that transcends the superhero genre. It is indeed a superhero movie and an action flick, but it’s also a road movie, a hard-hitting drama, a western, and a movie about cross-generational relationships. I was really surprised by how much I was moved by it.

Logan is also the first R-rated Wolverine film, and it certainly does not waste that classification. From the very first scene and line of dialogue, the film lets you know that it doesn’t intend on holding back, delivering f-bombs and copious amounts of brutal violence, blood and gore. Those used to the more tame X-Men films might find it jarring at first, but let’s face it — what do you expect when someone waves those sharp metal claws around like that? Personally, I didn’t find the violence gratuitous — it only added to the realism and the raw emotion of the film. Besides, it’s not just the violence either, as the story itself is really dark and tackles some very depressing issues. A PG-13 version of this movie just would not have worked.

Both Jackman and Stewart deliver what are easily their best performances in the X-Men franchise to date. Admittedly, part of it is because of the story and the added screen time their characters have been given, but they really do make the most of it. This felt like the kind of Wolverine movie Jackman had wanted to make back in 2009 and again in 2013, one where it’s really about who the character is as a person rather than his claws.

As good as they both are, newcomer Dafne Keen absolutely steals the show as the mysterious young girl named Laura. She is just unbelievably badass in this movie and I would love to see her (or at least her character) featured in future X-Men films.

The rest of the supporting cast is fantastic as well. It took me a while before I recognised him, but towering comedian Stephen Merchant is great as albino mutant Caliban, while Boyd Holbrook (Run All Night, A Walk Among the Tombstones, Morgan) surprised me with how good he is as Donald Pierce, the leader of a security squad working for a scientist played by British film veteran Richard E Grant. Special props too to the actor who plays the main supervillain of the film, who shall remain unnamed.

No movie is perfect, though the only main complaint I have regarding Logan — apart from a couple of minor logistic quibbles — is the 137-minute length, which could have had a few minutes here and there trimmed (120-125 minutes would have been perfect). That said, I never found the film slow, even during its more contemplative moments, and I wouldn’t mind seeing an extended cut that’s even longer.

There are going to be a lot of blockbusters coming out in the next few weeks (Kong: Skull IslandBeauty and the Beast, Life), but I would be very, very surprised if any of them even come close to the awesomeness that is Logan. What a way to send off Hugh Jackman’s version of the character. Logan is the best Wolverine movie ever, the best X-Men movie ever, and one of the best superhero movie of all time. It’s that good.

5 stars out of 5!

Movie Review: Hall Pass (2011)

When I was still at school, my friend and I decided to go see a movie after class one day.  But for whatever reason, we missed the film we intended to see, and there was only one other film available, a film neither of us had even heard of.

That film was called There’s Something About Mary, and I don’t think either of us have laughed as hard in a cinema as we did that day.  It was one magical movie experience that I’ll always treasure — zero knowledge of the plot, zero expectations, and an unexpected classic of a film.  The name, the Farrelly brothers, was also ingrained into my brain.

Fast forward to present day, and as chance would have it, my friend and I had another opportunity to catch a film together.  Naturally, we decided to go see Hall Pass, a Farrelly brothers movie starring Owen Wilson, Jason Sudeikis (only recently watched him in 30 Rock), Jenna Fischer, Christina Applegate and Stephen Merchant.

The premise is outstanding and full of potential.  Two friends in slightly rocky relationships with their wives are given a “hall pass” from marriage for a week.  Effectively, a licence to cheat.  What will they do?  What kind of mischief will they get up to?  Will it be hilarious?

Sadly, I have to report that Hall Pass didn’t pass the grade.  The Farrelly brothers’ magic from There’s Something About Mary is well and truly gone.  Their last two films, this one and The Heartbreak Kid (with Ben Stiller) are both duds in my opinion.  It just shows how hard it is to make a strong comedy film, and just because you’ve succeeded once doesn’t mean you know the secret formula.

The problem with Hall Pass is that it’s not particularly funny.  If you’ve seen the trailer you would have seen half the jokes, because most of them are the same, and the rest are relatively predictable. Not to say that it isn’t funny at all, because there were a few good moments (my favourite was in a massage parlour) that made me giggle aloud, but on the whole there were too many jokes and gags that were met with complete silence or worse, cringes.

Another problem I had with it is that, like so many ‘comedies’ these days, being loud and obnoxious, filthily disgusting, and having shock value are taken as a proxy for humour.  Where are the good old jokes that comes from cleverness and wit and irony?  And my goodness, masturbation and racial penis size gags really are getting old these days.

It’s unfortunate because Hall Pass had so much going for it as an idea, but the development and execution let it down.  There were shades of Mary in there in a couple of scenes, and you could almost sense that they were trying to recreate what had worked for them in the past, but for whatever reason, it failed.

At the end of the day, Hall Pass is what it is.  A great idea, a solid cast, a few good jokes, a lot of lame ones, and a dash of sweetness at its core.  Probably better than most of the trashy gross-out comedies that get pumped out these days but still not very good.

2 stars out of 5