by Alan Yudman
I dunno. Maybe you have to be a parent to be seismically moved by a movie like LION. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed it. How could you not enjoy every moment Sunny Pawar is on screen. How can a little kid have such screen presence? Dev Patel is amazing. He is such a great actor and does not get the credit or the roles he deserves.
In case you don’t know, LION is the true story of Saroo Brierley. The 5-year-old Saroo gets separated from his brother at a train station in India. He climbs onto a train which then whisks him to Calcutta. He then spends a year or so living on the streets before he is sent to something like an orphanage. Eventually he is adopted by an Australian couple (Nicole Kidman and David Wenham). He lives a great life in Tasmania, but as he moves into adulthood he cannot forget his family in India, so he uses Google Maps to try to find the train station where he got lost. After years, he finally finds it and is eventually reunited with his mother and younger sister. I don’t know, the use of technology to find the village where he grew up made the whole exercise a little sterile for me. Hard to dramatize a guy sitting at a computer doing Google searches. But the reunions and his relationship with his adoptive family are compelling as are young Saroo’s “adventures” in Calcutta.
On the whole LION is an above average movie that tells a moving story. But it could have been just a bit more.
by Alan Yudman
James Gunn is some kind of wizard. A god-like being who can make a sequel to a unique movie and lose none of the chache, charm or tone that made us love the original.
The original Guardians of the Galaxy was an outlier in the Marvel canon. It was funny, filled with action and did not possess any of the self-importance of the Avengers movies. So the question and/or dilemma Gunn found himself facing was could he do it again. The answer is a mostly unqualified YES!
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, VOL. 2 is 2 hours and 15 minutes of fun, laughs, and action. Since Gunn wrote and directed both movies, it’s not hard to fathom that the transition from Vol. 1 to Vol 2 is nearly seamless. The Guardians are now problem solvers for hire. Saving the Galaxy from whatever threat is coming. Oh, and they are coming.
Once again, Gunn weaves ’70’s pop songs with action in a pleasing non-sequitor of treacle and crazy set pieces. The opening sequence sets us up for that by showing the Guardians battling an inter-dimensional creature in the background while we watch Baby Groot dance to ELO’s “Mr. Blue Sky”. They defeat the beast. Their payment from a society known as The Sovereign is Nebula, Gamora’s sister. They turn her over so the Guardian can hand her to Nova Squad on Xandar. But, Rocket steals some batteries and the Sovereign are not happy. They chase the gang and they only escape thanks to the help of a being who destroys the Sovereign fleet. That being is Ego (Kurt Russell), a name that is a bit too on the nose for reasons I won’t spoil here.
Aside from the humor and the fantastically inventive set pieces there is something more here. There is stuff about family and fathers and sons. Is your family determined by genetics or circumstance? Are your father and your dad the same person? It’s a bit heavy handed, but goes down with several spoonfuls of sugar thanks to the fabulous writing and wonderful cast.
Chris Pratt’s Peter Quill is once again the reckless outlaw with a heat in search of some family connection (hint: he finds it for good or bad). The voice work of Bradley Cooper is beyond fantastic. Dave Bautista, Zoe Saldana, Michael Rooker and Vin Diesel as Baby Groot all bring their best to the party. The addition of Russell is welcome and the smart-aleck superiority he displays as Mr. Nobody in Fate of the Furious is at full volume here. It is necessary for his character and the story, There’s even a cameo from Sylvester Stallone. I mean, what more do you want?
Guardians Vol. 2 is sure to be a huge hit for Marvel. It should be. It is a wonderful sequel in that it continues the journey and honors the characters we all grew to adore in the first film. I stuck around for the Arclight Stories feature after the film. In it, Pratt lavishes praise on Gunn and semi-seriously says he should be nominated for Best Director. It’s not hard to agree, given how well GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, VOL. 2 continues the franchise that may be better than anything else Marvel is doing right now.
by Alan Yudman
Where to take the Fast and Furious franchise after the death of Paul Walker. Would the studio (Universal) be brave enough to just leave well enough alone and let the franchise come to its logical conclusion? Nah! Not a cash cow like this! So bring them all back for an 8th film.. THE FATE OF THE FUROUS.
Dom Toretto and Letty are enjoying their honeymoon in Cuba. Dom’s schooling the local badass on the Toretto code.. drive fast and family first. But the tranquility of paradise (is Cuba a paradise yet?) is shattered when a mysterious woman confronts Dom and recruits him to work for her. It’s a blackmail scheme that will test his code and his devotion to everything he believes in.
Charlize Theron shows up as Cipher, the hacker extraordinaire that is pulling Dom’s strings. Her plan is to control the world’s nuclear powers, but first she has to steal some shit in the most outrageous way possible. Dom’s team including Dwayne Johnson’s Hobbs are working for Mr. Nobody again, stealing an EMP device. But Cipher wants Dom to steal it for her and because she has something on her, he does it. That is where he betrays the team and leaves them all wondering what the heck is going on.
The set pieces are typically outrageous– a swinging metal ball that takes out the bad guys’ vehicles, self driving cars raining from parking garages in New York City, a chase involving a nuclear submarine. F. Gary Gray gets Justin Lin’s tone perfectly and executes a really entertaining film.
I really had a good time watching this. But it left me with several questions, and not about the weird plot holes. When is a cast too big? The core group was always good enough, but they’ve added Johnson, Kurt Russell, Jason Statham, etc. The charm of the first few movies seems to be vanishing. That brings me to another question, is Tyrese Gibson’s Roman funny or just really freaking annoying. I’m starting to lean toward the latter. With so many people the villain doesn’t have much to do or much depth of character, so Theron seems a bit wasted in the role. Johnson is a true movie star. I loved watching every scene he was in.
So will there be another? Maybe. Oh who am I kidding. Of course there will be. The Fate of the Furious made $1 billion dollars. Universal knows a good thing when they see it. But whoever gets ahold of the franchise next may want to consider some slight alteration to make it just a fast, but maybe a little less furious.
by Alan Yudman
If your are going to give up one of the iconic roles you are known for, then why not go out with your best performance. That is exactly what Hugh Jackman accomplishes in LOGAN. He has played Wolverine in 9 films. About time to retire the adamantium claws.
The film is set in the not too distant future. Professor Xavier is losing his mind. Seems like it is dementia, but when you a mutant with powers like the Professors that is something that could end the world. So Logan is keeping him hidden and sedated somewhere across the border in Mexico. The mutant Caliban is his pseudo-nurse while Logan drive a limo. Then a nurse finds him and asks for help to get a child to some mutant hideaway in North Dakota. Logan refuses, but he is drawn in by circumstance and his kind heart.
That’s when the movie really takes off. The child is part of an experiment that turns kids into mutants. Now they are being rounded up. Logan hits the road with Professor X and the child. Logan is both savior and mentor to the girl. The film feels like a modern western. The chase across dusty or remote vistas. The good versus evil. And it all works perfectly.
Storylines are wrapped up, sequels are hinted at and fans get closure on Logan’s journey. If we will never see Wolverine again (at least with Jackman in the role), then this was a perfect send off.