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Logan

Several months back, there was talk of a new Wolverine movie. It was bantered about that it would be a variant of the Old Man Logan comic book. I was not interested as the prior Wolverine moves had been lackluster outside of the performances provided by Hugh Jackman.

But then, there was the trailer set to Hurt performed by Johnny Cash. It struck me right in the feels and I was all in. Further trailers were presented with even better soundtracks. Any reticence on my part to see the movie evaporated.

I went with two friends and watched it in the VIP section of my local Cinemark and was transported to a very different world.

It was a much darker world than that of previous movies, but by far the, the best world of all the Wolverine and X Men movies.

Logan is a well made and delivers a simple, solid story with good acting from Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart. It takes up threads that have been strewn about the various X Men and Wolverine movies and brings them all together to be examined under a very harsh light. It takes the story found in Old Man Logan and blends it with the story of Cable and Faith. It adds a dash of The Last of Us too present a grim dark dystopian future where sometimes the best you can hope for is to die fighting.

The studio took a risk and allowed Logan to be rated R. This was an excellent decision for both the character and they story that is being told here. Logan has always stated that he is the best at what he does and that what he does isn’t nice. Here, the director puts paid to this statement as we watch a mutant with claws that can cut through anything actually fight with them. The results are brutal and bloody and shows you what an actual fight with Wolverine would play out like.

In addition to the brutal violence we get Logan and Professor X having conversations that use language that one would expect from people at the end of their rope. Yes, Fuck is used. It is used both for shock value but it is also used to lend a gravitas to the conversations that these characters have as they struggle to reach the end of life with some dignity or respect left in tact. The conversations between Charles and Logan are in turns comedic and poignant. The ability to use all the words in their vocabulary makes the conversations feel more organic and less stilted.

Logan takes up the fears of the middle aged man and makes them manifest is harsh and brutal ways. The dystopian future wherein the story takes place has no more mutants being born and those that are left being isolated. Logan struggles in a world that has left him behind with failing health, few friends, and an aging father figure that needs much more support than he can return. The loneliness and isolation are palpable from the opening scenes. Hell, the movie even touches upon erectile dysfunction in a scene after a fight. Logan is cleaning up his wounds and dealing with a claw that would not come out during the fight. We watch as he forcibly pulls the claw out and winces and bleeds to get everything back in working order.

The movie also finally takes up the idea that Wolverine has been fighting for a very long time. It shows a logan that is isolated from the world but not just because of whom he is but because he no longer knows how to interact with a world that doesn’t require a fighter. This is highlighted by a scene in the Las Vegas hotel. Charles is watching Shane on the big screen with Laura. He explains how this was a touchstone movie for him. The scene that is playing is where shane is explaining that there will not be guns in the valley anymore, they’re not needed and he will be leaving. It is a quintessential piece of americana that is easily missed unless you’ve spent some time with westerns. It points out that not only does Logan not know how to be a part of this world, but that the damage to himself from fighting so long leaves him unable to get outside of himself to try and be better.

The final thing that made me love this movie was how it took up the idea of family. Once again, we are here at the end of the line with Charles and Logan. We, the audience, know the story of the family that was created around these two. We get hints of how that ended and the guilt that both feel over the outcome as well as anger at each other over not doing more to avert the catastrophe. All these emotions come pouring out at they try to save Laura from the Reavers that seek to recover her. She becomes the catalyst that allows Logan to pry off scar tissue and take one final stab at doing the right thing. Watching the process is painful as you want the four color Wolverine that we have been given before but this iteration feels more authentic and more vulnerable and thus better.

Logan is definitely four bear paws out of four. For all of the above reasons as well as many easter eggs strewn within the movie referring to many other great stories and characters that we will hopefully get to see someday on the big screen.

Make time to see Logan on the big screen, you will not regret it.

The Great Wall

When I first heard of The Great Wall, I was unimpressed. I heard the cries of whitewashing and quickly climbed on the bandwagon. The first trailers did nothing to dissuade me from this this viewpoint.

I then saw a trailer that introduced the idea of monsters.  I will freely admit that my mind immediately jumped to Chinese dragons. In my head I was all, “Fuck Yeah!” The idea of the Great Wall being built to defend China from monsters was intriguing. I asked my friends Rob & Terry if they would like to go see The Great Wall with me and they said yes.

The Great Wall is, at it’s heart, a gamer movie. The plot is a straightforward adventure scenario. Our intrepid adventurer, William, is on a mission to find black powder and bring it back to europe to become rich. He and his comrade Tovar are the only survivors of their caravan to reach the Great Wall. Their lives are spared when it is discovered that they have defeated one of the monster that has been assaulting the wall on their own. What follows is William’s process of discovering what it takes to defend the wall from the monsters and what it takes for him to trust someone one. The visuals are well done, and the acting is good, if a bit predictable.

Spoiler Warnings On!

I loved the costume design. The army that stood watch on the Great Wall was divided into different functions. Each function had a different style of armor. Their armor was very stylized animals with a particular color. The most flamboyant were the blue crane units which were composed entirely of women. Their job was to leap from platforms on the wall into the monsters that were climbing up in order to slay them before they reached the top. The colorful armor made what could have been a dark and brooding movie something much more vibrant and visually exciting.

I also appreciated that they took the time to create an army unit that was entirely composed of women. The unit’s leader also happened to be the general’s favorite commander. The twist comes when the general is grievously injured. Instead of going with what would be standard, he gives command of the army to Commander Lin Mae, the leader of the all female unit. in addition, there are no points in the movie where her decisions are questioned by her commanders. Her orders are treated just like any other general and this was refreshing to see and unexpected.

The visuals on the movie were also gorgeous. The monsters in the movie are sadly not chinese dragons. The monsters were Tao Tie, a mix of fu dog and demon. The look was something that was definitely chinese in origin. The CGI was well done with there only being a few instances where I could call out the effects for being obvious. There is also a scene at the climax of the film that is beautiful. William and Mae are fighting up the inside of a pagoda. The sun is shining through the windows creating a myriad of rainbows through which the two fight and move to save the day. It was wonderful!

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Matt Damon was not the whitewashing that I was lead to believe he would be. william’s character provides the initiating action which brings the audience into the film. He and his companion bring a base reason for seeking out this foreign culture. They originally are seeking to exploit it for it’s riches without any knowledge of the true richness present. As William moves through the events that unfold around the wall he comes to appreciate this new culture as well as rethink his own perspective. It strays far from the idea of whitewashing and outside of William and Tovar, the main characters are chinese. In addition, William is not the sole savior in the movie. Lin Mae and Tovar both take turns rescuing our erstwhile protagonist and the climax of the movie require both Lin Mae and William to work in concert.

The Great Wall is a wonderful gamer movie and an excellent B Movie with grade A effects. It does everything I would want out of a gamer movie without sacrificing a solid design aesthetic. The plot is straightforward and the acting is acceptable. Well worth seeing at a matinee, especially if you are a gamer.

Three out of Four bear paws!

Stiletto

I enjoy urban fantasy that mixes spy tropes with supernatural powers and mysterious phenomena. I will give these types of books a chance whenever possible. Daniel O’Malley provides this in Stiletto.

Stiletto picks up the story of Myfanwy Thomas from the first book in the series, The Rook. Myfanwy has successfully survived the attempt to take over the Checquy, Britain’s covert supernatural ministry. She now must negotiate the merger of the Checquy with their most hated enemy, the Grafters.

Stiletto follows three characters through the story to provide a fresh perspective on this unique world created by O’Malley.

There is Felicity whom is a pawn in a combat operations team. Her power is the ability to extended her awareness into the past or through an object. She has been trained to use her psychometry on behalf of her country as well as to be able to handle herself in a fight. She, like all pawns of the Checquy has been raised to fear and hate the Grafters and wonders when the ball will drop and she will be called on with others to attack their one-time invaders.

Odette is a young Grafter who is a protege of the founder of the group. She is a skilled surgeon, geneticist, and all around scientist. Odette has been enhanced through the science of the Grafters to be an even better surgeon as well as stronger and better able to defend herself via retractable claws that drip poison. Odette has learned to keep herself hidden and adopted a paranoid approach to life as all Grafters are taught that the Checquy will kill them if they are discovered.

This leaves us with Myfanwy. She is a Rook of the Checquy whose power is the ability to control the bodies of anyone within 200 feet of her. Her job entails overseeing the activities of the ministry here at home. This means she is still picking up the pieces of the failed coup and organizing the merger of these two groups that hate each other.

Stiletto has everything I love about urban fantasy. There are strange powers that range from just being able to change how a person smells to being able to throw green flames at an enemy. The Grafters provide the addition of super-science as they have turned the art of alchemy into the science of genetic manipulation and control of the various life forms. They adjust themselve and animals to do things beyond the natural. I particularly like how O’Malley blends in the covert aspects of spy fiction into this world as both the Checquy and the Grafters struggle to keep themselves from the public eye. I especially love how the arm of the Checquy that deals with disinformation is called the liars.

Stiletto has plenty of action and suspense but truly shines in it’s worldbuilding and relationships. O’Malley has created these two organizations and given us a glimpse of why they hate each other so much. Here, he allows these characters to tell us the stories that has kept fear and hatred alive for centuries. We get to know Felicity and Odette as they struggle to go through the day with each other despite having been taught that the other person is the enemy and should be destroyed. As they struggle to get through the days of the negotiations and unravel the mysteries surrounding the threats presented to this union, we get to know two strong and likeable women. O’Malley gives them such life and personality that it is difficult to not like either of them. They are imperfect creatures that struggle with the fear and hatred and provide an excellent reflection of how this happens in reality and the path out of this loop.

O’Malley takes the time in Stiletto to delve more into the world that surrounds these characters. He does so in a fashion that feels less like exposition but adds to the tension that is building in the story. In particular, I like how we get to know more about the critical battle that sets these two organizations at odds. It, like most battles, starts with one man’s desire for more power and control. The Grafters, eager to show off their prowess, comply with the a request for weapons that could improve the standing of their country. The resulting invasion results in atrocities that leave wounds that are never allowed to heal and passed down the generations on both sides. As the story progresses we get to see the consequences of those past actions played out in the present.

I love this book!

It has solid characters that are easy to love. The villains are not cardboard cutouts but fully fleshed individuals with understandable motivations. He populates his world with diverse characters that are flawed yet trying to do better. It is also the second book in the series and I did not feel like I needed to have read the first book to enjoy this one. I would still pick up the first book, The Rook, and read it as it is wonderful as well and will increase you enjoyment of Stiletto.

So, I give Stiletto four bear paw out of four! Definitely worth your time and money. I can not wait for the next installment in the series.

I bearly recommend it!

 

Love is Love

IDW and DC Comics collaborated with many comic creators to produce a graphic novel whose proceeds would go to benefit the victims, survivors, and the families of the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando earlier this year.

I tweeted about my strong emotions around this book and Aron from Funnybooks with Aron and Paulie & Ideology of Madness reached out and asked me to do a review for them. Aron along with the folks over at Zero Fortitude gave me my start at writing on the internet and I will be forever grateful to them for giving me the chance to write for them

I said yes, of course.

The episode is out now and you can find it here. Go give it a listen and let me know what you think. Show them some love while there and peruse their backlist of podcast episodes. You will not be disappointed.

Orlando Solidarity

Orlando

My heart aches for those who have lost their lives in Orlando this weekend.

There are families, friends, and communities with holes in them from the callous hatred. There are people that are struggling to cope with the injuries of this hatred.

There are plenty of charities that are uniting to help those that are caught in this tragedy. You can find a way to donate here.

No post this week as I can’t bring myself to write about something with this much sadness in my heart.

Furious 7

fast-and-furious-7With the death of Paul Walker, the fate of Furious 7 as up in the air. The studio decided to move forward with the movie and added in a CGI version of walker into the scenes that were remaining to be show as well as to the new ending that was created as a memorial to Walker.

The Fast and Furious franchise is one of my guilty pleasures. I love the over the top chase scenes and the added benefit of Vin Diesel, Jason Statham, and Dwayne Johnson in this latest outing ensured that I was going to see this movie. Going in, I knew that I was not the target demographic for this movie. The amount of scantily clad beautiful women placed throughout the movie further reinforced this idea. The audience is only given a shirtless Dwayne Johnson for a few minutes, for which I am still grateful.

Spoiler warnings on.

The opening scene of the movie sets the tone for the rest of the story. This scene shows Deckard Shaw, played by Statham, on the phone attempting to discover who put his brother in the hospital. The camera pans out to show a regular private hospital room. As Deckard finishes his call, the audience is shown a cowering doctor and nurse. Deckard orders them to take good care of his brother. The scene as he walks out of the hospital is utter carnage. There are dead heavily armored police littered on his path out of the hospital and collateral damage to the building and staff is monumental. Deckard exit from the hospital is topped off with one final explosion erupting from it. I don’t expect logic to play much into a Fast and Furious story line but this scene alone tells you that logic is on vacation and whoever is at the wheel is drunk on tequila and ready to party.

I was reading some of the pre-release press on the movie and saw a piece where it was compared to the Magnificent Seven. I can see the bits where the comparison can be made but the wild west feeling is never something that comes out throughout the movie. In the end, the movies feels very much like a Shadowrun adventure. Deckard, the big bad of the piece, breaks into a supposedly secure governmental agency to retrieve the information on who hurt his brother. In the process, he puts Hobbs, played by Dwayne Johnson, into the hospital. Thus begins the game of cat and mouse between Deckard and Dominick. The Shadowrun nature of the movie crops up as Dominick’s crew discover that Deckard is a black ops agent and they will need governmental help in tracking him down. To get this help, They have to pull off an extraction of a capture hacker in order to use her program to find Deckard. And like any good Shadowrun adventure, the end goal is never that easy and a trip to another exotic location is needed.

The chase scenes are over-the-top and the action is scenery crunching throughout. The dialogue never really rises beyond a that of a Shadowrun Adventure though. If it were clever and quick-witted, a comparison to Leverage could have been made. The thing that was a bit weird for me were the scenes of Paul Walker that were CGI. These scenes enter into the uncanny valley and trigger my hind brain “something is not right here” vibe. The final scene which is more a memorial to Paul Walker also feels off as it doesn’t fit into the story that has been presented. It feels welded on and could have been handled a bit more delicately.

Overall, Furious 7 is a good addition to the Franchise. If you have enjoyed any of the last three Fast and furious movies, I highly recommend seeing this in the theater.