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Movie Review: Logan


We're living in an age of superhero origin stories, reboots, spin-offs and stand-offs. The superhero craze continues to reinvent and elevate comic books into the realm of film with an ever-burgeoning list of heroes and villains. One success story has been Wolverine, one of the few X-Men characters who has appeared in every media adaptation of the X-Men franchise. From being part of the team to branching out in several stand-alone films, Hugh Jackman has made the character of Wolverine almost like an alter-ego thanks to his considerable range of talents. Having played Wolverine in nine X-Men films, it's getting to that point where like most Bond actors, he doesn't want the role to define him. While Jackman has already developed a strong association with the character, it was time to mix things up.

With a so-so outing in X-Men: Apocalypse, which seemed like the rise and fall of an '80s metal band, it became apparent that the franchise's success hinged largely on Wolverine's screen time. Furthermore, despite the best efforts of Bryan Singer, the X-Men franchise needed to be grounded for some self-reflection. This is what makes Logan refreshing. Director, James Mangold, has reinvented his own Wolverine concept... following up with a gritty, realistic and grisly film in favour of the CGI-heavy Highlander style, The Wolverine.

Signalling his intent to zero in on the character, they've dropped any mention of X-Men and gone with the title, Logan. Set in the near future, we're introduced to a husk of the man as we know him, as Logan's attempts to hide and reduce the legacy of Wolverine are thwarted by the arrival of a young mutant in need of his help. Instead of another claw smash-and-grab, we're taken on a more introspective journey with a cast including: Patrick Stewart, Boyd Holbrook, Richard E. Grant, Stephen Merchant and introducing Dafne Keen.

Logan Wolverine

"No, Freddy Krueger got the idea from me."

It's as if a Mel Gibson star vehicle script was reinvented as a Wolverine film, not shying away from extreme violence but retaining its rogue underdog nature. Much like Blood Father and Get the Gringo, there's a similar energy in terms of characterisation, cold-blooded killing and tongue-in-cheek comedy. We're slowly immersed into this "foreign" world, which seems a lot more like the earth we know than theĀ X-Men universe. Instead of an over-reliance on effects, Mangold allows his talents to act, giving them more face time and creating some touching moments through the rich relational dynamics.

The performances help us bridge the gap into this gritty, real and deconstructed take on Wolverine. Jackman is a versatile and celebrated actor, who doesn't need a moment to get into the head space of Logan, delivering a self-doubting, vulnerable and troubled man. While it is difficult to watch him struggle as a bedraggled Wolverine, he remains strong for those around him. This makes his journey more enjoyable for his undying commitment and veteran skills, much like the Taken action thriller trend. Then, Stewart also relishes the opportunity to add some humanity and ragged texture to a latter day Professor X. Together with young Dafne Keen, it's a strong co-lead unit, deftly delivering punishing action and touching drama.

While we're used to seeing superhero films that overwhelm the senses with CGI and over-the-top superpowers, James Mangold has decided to put the franchise in reverse. He's reinvented the typical Marvel format by creating a gritty on-the-run action drama sci-fi thriller. Borrowing aspects from action franchises like Mad Max, Terminator, Die Hard and Rambo, he's tailored a dusty and realistic on-the-run road movie, which has many similarities to Mercury Rising and even Little Miss Sunshine.

The post-apocalyptic feel and desert car chase showdowns have a Mad Max: Fury Road feel about them. The killing machine entrusted with protecting instead of destroying is reminiscent of the Terminator's trajectory. Having an outgunned, seasoned underdog like Logan at the helm against an army of henchmen has echoes of Die Hard, while Rambo: First Blood comes to mind as we witness heroic armed forces action against the backdrop of nature. Elements from Little Miss Sunshine come into play as key characters follow similar paths and share parallels on this borderline quirky road movie. Logan also serves as a tribute to the classic western, Shane.

Logan has many strong influences as it leans on tough-as-nails old school action of the '80s instead of churning out yet another slick superhero flick. There are several big laughs and a few unintentional ones when you take a step back from the action. While Mangold has pulled off this ambitious take with flair, it didn't need so much explicit violence, which intensifies to the point of saturation.

The seemingly limitless hordes of henchmen give Wolverine enough trouble along with "middle management", but Logan had a conglomerate when it needed a stronger nemesis. Mangold's thoughtful direction and several strong performances make this ambitious take entertaining and refreshingly different with many memorable moments.

The bottom line: Gritty


 
Top 5 Betting Films


From high stakes betting games to anything-goes Las Vegas mayhem, the world of gambling has always been a winner for Hollywood. Here are 5 great betting films that you can back all the way to the finish line.

Casino

Casino chronicles the true story of a faction of the mob who ran a gambling empire in Las Vegas, focusing on the fractious relationship between Nicky Santoro, a mafia underboss, and Ace Rothstein, a casino owner, played by Joe Pesci and Robert De Niro respectively. At the centre of the dispute of the best friends is a trophy wife played by Sharon Stone, who wields a fair amount of power as greed, deception, money, power and murder take centre stage. Following Goodfellas, director Martin Scorsese brings the highly effective De Niro/Pesci duo together again to adapt Nicholas Pileggi's book and screenplay.

The Sting

Robert Redford and Paul Newman had fantastic chemistry as evidenced in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and the follow-up, The Sting. Playing a small-time hustler, Johnny Hooker, Redford teams up once again with fellow underdog outlaw, Newman as Henry Gondorff. Together with director George Roy Hill, this classic pairing ensured that this entertaining caper won Best Picture Oscar in 1973. Pegged as a comedy, it's more like edge-of-your-seat betting game thanks to Hill's sleight of hand direction. It's just a pity (possibly a saving grace) that the stars didn't collaborate again in another film.

The Hustler

"Some winners are born to lose." This paradox inspired The Hustler, a sports drama about self-destructive pool player, Fast Eddie Felson, who goes under the tutelage of a Brett Newman in order to challenge a long-time champion in a high stakes game. It's a dark, beautifully shot and complex sports drama, packed full of great performances, amazing trick shots and led by star-making roles for Paul Newman and Jackie Gleason. It's a must-see for anyone whose ever dreamed of competing in the world of sports betting as a pool shark.

Casino Royale

The Bond franchise needed to be reinvented in order to be taken seriously. Who better to lead the charge than Daniel Craig, whose dashing looks, rogue physique and blonde hair made him a royal shakeup for the martini drinking gentleman? Starting with Casino Royale, a Bond film that originally came to be associated with Peter Sellers, the franchise was out to set a few records straight. Recruiting Martin Campbell to direct gave this Bond reboot its edge and while Daniel Craig seemed like a sketchy choice at first, he proved his naysayers wrong with an explosive performance opposite the likes of Bond girl Eva Green, arch nemesis Mads Mikkelsen and Judi Dench as 'M'. Riddled with question marks, who would have bet that this Bond film could be arguably the best?!

Ocean's Eleven

Ocean's Eleven is one of those rare remakes that actually trumps the original. Instead of a crooner cast, it's a Clooney cast as the star-studded ensemble draws names like Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, Matt Damon and Casey Affleck. Front and centre is George Clooney as Danny Ocean, who wants to take revenge on the casino owner who had him incarcerated. Fresh out of prison, he assembles a hotshot crew of 11 in order to rob three casinos in one night. Slick, charming and full of Las Vegas glitz, Steven Soderbergh's comedy caper is always entertaining and keeps the audience in on the wink.

 
Magic Light and Triggerfish Delight with Roald Dahl's 'Revolting Rhymes'


Having grown up listening to, reading and even performing bits from Roald Dahl's Revolting Rhymes with my cousins over Christmas as a child... I was eager to see what Magic Light and Triggerfish Studios had done with the animated version. Attending the African premiere at the Design Indaba at Artscape in Cape Town this year, it was an absolute pleasure to see the transition.

Roald Dahl would have been 100 years old by now and would've relished the chance to see this adaptation of his much-loved works, which combines the classic fairy tales of Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White, The Three Little Pigs, Jack and the Beanstalk and Cinderella. The film-makers have taken William Blake's cover image of the wolf reading to children and turned it into the storytelling device by which the Revolting Rhymes unfold. While it doesn't feature the Goldilocks tale, Blake's sketches have been lovingly translated into beautifully textured 3D form by Triggerfish, retaining much of Blake's original character design and quirk.

The two half hour TV parts are meticulous and have been directed by Jakob Schuh and Jan Lachauer, both former Annecy winners and Oscar nominees. Lacing Dahl's witty rhymes and maintaining a sinister tension keeps one entertained, while they've made it TV friendly enough for the whole family to enjoy. The Magic Light and Triggerfish collaboration seems to be going from strength-to-strength after working on the award-winning Stick Man and will be teaming up yet again for work on The Highway Rat.

 
Spling's Galileo Pick of the Week: The Dark Knight


Spling's Pick of the Week - The Dark Knight @ Central Park

THE DARK KNIGHT @ CENTRAL PARK (10 Mar)

Christopher Nolan is a perfectionist, a conductor who insists that every instrument at his disposal is finely calibrated and double-checked. This means his films are always beautiful and reinforced by strong writing, powerful music and breathtaking visuals. His clinical precision could be accused of siphoning the warmth, imperfection and joy out of film, but he does tend to work on the colder, darker more serious side of the spectrum as evidenced by The Dark Knight. A legendary superhero match up between Batman and the Joker is given the same epic treatment as Heat, which saw Hollywood legends Al Pacino and Robert De Niro go head-to-head. The Dark Knight represents the pinnacle of superhero films, leaving Tim Burton's original Batman in the dust, a pantomime by contrast. Beautifully shot, pulsating in its dark majesty and enigmatic by virtue of Heath Ledger's maniacal performance , this is a good example of a sequel that managed to top an already excellent Part 1.

This groundbreaking superhero crime saga is showing under the stars at The Galileo Open Air Cinema.

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