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Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for FilmFestivals.com and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. 

 

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Siraj Syed reviews Logan: All Gore

Siraj Syed reviews Logan: All Gore

Just when we had begun to think that desensitisation was near complete, and violence in American films held no more depths to plumb, there comes Logan. For its genre, it’s a triumph of sorts. For the distanced critic, his worst fears could have come true. Unless, of course, he turns it into a cathartic but guilty experience.

Decapitation with a cap-it-all D is but one of the milder forms of blood and gore strewn across the two hours plus footage of Logan, and guns are the more tame kind of weapon on display in this brain-curdling extravaganza. They’ve rated it R in the USA. In medical parlance Rx stands for prescription. This R-rated film is an XXX rated third in the Logan series of prescriptions for Wolverine fans that might cause very serious side effects to others, who are not so fanny.

A big leaf is plucked from several inspirational flicks of yesteryear--Western classic Shane (1953), Americans v/s Red Indians realistic story Soldier Blue (1970), a father-daughter tragic-comedy like Paper Moon (1973; remade in India as Ginny Aur Johnny, 1976) and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (2016; the title is self-explanatory). The first is incorporated in the Logan as several film clips that are watched by the characters, the second being a pioneer in the head-chopping department that is the  mainstay of Logan, and the third a prototype of gifted children (read mutants). That spans 50 years of referencing. To complete the tribute, we have John Carter ‘Johnny’ Cash’s 2002 track from the eponymous album, ‘When the man comes around’ playing out the end-credits roll.

Indians get to see Logan in a joint first, along with Americans, as the film is releasing in both countries today, Friday, 03 March 2017.

Surprisingly, there is a plot in place, and not a bad one at that. Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) has aged greatly and is in bad shape, since his healing factor has started being less efficacious. He now works as a limousine chauffeur, and hustles prescription drugs in Texas. He and Caliban (for the ignoramuses, the first letter is neither a ‘T’ypo nor a ‘C’ypo) live in an abandoned, Chinese-owned, smelting plant, across the border, in Mexico, where they care for a senile Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), also known as Professor X. Xavier had inadvertently killed several of his X-Men in a seizure-induced psychic blast that froze people and caused earthquake-like vibrations one year earlier, and is now in his 90s.

Logan is approached by Gabriela (Elizabéth Rodriguez), a nurse for corporate Transigen, who asks him to escort her and an 11-year-old, apparently mute girl named Laura (Dafne Keen) to a place in North Dakota, called Eden. She offers him $50,000 for his services. He needs the money to buy expensive drugs for Xavier, and Caliban too, who has a serious skin condition (Googling xeroderma pigmentsum and photo-phobia might help; while you are at it, add Adamantium to the search, though I will not reveal any more here, to avoid spoilers).

When he goes to pick them up, he finds Gabriela dead and the kid missing. Donald Pierce and the Reavers are on their trail and Logan narrowly escapes being annihilated by them. He manages to escape, along with Xavier and Laura, while Caliban (Stephen Merchant) is captured, and ordered to use his mutant powers to track them. Logan and Xavier learn through a video on Gabriela's phone that Transigen was breeding children with DNA samples from several mutants, but upon completion of the X-24 project, the children were to be put to death.

Gabriela had helped several children escape from the Transigen compound before smuggling Laura across the border. Furthermore, Laura is revealed to be Logan's daughter, as she was bred with his DNA, a fact that Xavier confirms. Logan then becomes a road movie, with a hundred trucks, some helicopters, drones, latest weaponry (pitted against Logan’s killer Adamantiam, boneless, metallic claws; some ‘Trishul’—look that up to, if need be--that!) and some 1,000 Transigen mercenaries pursuing Logan, Xavier and Laura to Eden, across the border, where all the escaped, specially empowered children have planned to meet.

Tenth in the overall X-Men series, this Marvel mayhem is written and directed by James Mangold (Girl Interrupted, 3.10 to Yuma, Wolverine 2013). Well, Mangold is credited with the story. So who has written the screenplay and dialogue? Screenplay is credited to Scott Frank (Out of Sight, Minority Report, The Wolverine), James Mangold and Michael Green (TV’s Sex and the City, Green Lantern—strictly not an autobiography--, Heroes; three films releasing in 2017). That makes three writers.

But none of the three created the X-Men or Wolverine. The characters and story basis comes from Roy Thomas, Len Wein, John Romita Sr., Mark Millar, Steve McNiven. How many names did you count? I settled for eight. I guess if you need to bump off 800 men in gruesome glory, you will need at least eight writers. Is this why they are called hacks? With 800 baddies armed to their corpuscles, battling one Daddy, one Kiddy and one old Fuddy Duddy, who needs to bring in the law in between? Cops conspicuous by their absence, corpses by their omnipresence.

A lot of the violence is screen-rivetting, goose-bumping, hair-raising and seat-fidgetting. You could be impressed, awe-struck or simply numbed by the proceedings, and might even feel a guilty pleasure at seeing so many bad men being impaled or chopped to pieces. But, for a welcome change, a terribly violent film also gives you many breathing spaces, pacing its action with oodles of emotion. Only none of it is elevating or funny, barring the odd line from the old man on the wheel-chair. Comic relief is present courtesy referencing to Marvel Comics, a staple for the kid. A pun to Marvel, since Logan thinks she is imagining the comic-book plot as reality. Romance and sex-relief? What’s that?

Mangold has put together a hack fest that will be hard to beat. Yes, there have been some films that set the carnage bench-mark rather high, and you could vote for your favourite. Logan will make it to the final round, at least, I believe. His only real but unlikely hero in the film is a nagging, almost effeminate Caliban, because you will find it hard to sympathise with the likes of Logan (I know; even limping, crumbling, drug chasing, anti-heroes with claws earn their plaudits at the end), Xavier, and the rest.

It is the sassy, gutsy, spunky, twisted, irrepressible brave-heart of a child Laura that strikes the real chord. One only wished they had not make her do so many of the catapulting calisthenics and repeated clawing-gorging. Extra marks to Mangold and editor Michael McCusker for the dual pacing and the ability to keep proceedings interesting, without employing tools like back-stories or voice-overs. Music by Marco Beltrami, and cinematography John Mathieson, let it all sink in when there are those episodes of normalcy (if the absence of breakneck action can thus be described), and make your eyes dart across the IMAX screen, to catch Logan or his clone, X24, in high voltage mortal combat. Two eyes, two Logans.         

Hugh Jackman worked hard to get in the shape required and even took a pay cut when the reach of the film was truncated, thanks to a pre-determined R Rating treatment. All the hard-work he has put in to project disillusionment with life itself, since all Logan touches turns to dust, his grim, taut, palpable resignation to his fate, and his dragging-his-own-corpse act are in good form. Patrick Stewart (Star Trek and X-Men veteran who will be 77 soon) is a delight in the tradition of British veterans. Richard E. Grant (Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Gosford Park, The Iron Lady) has a small role, and does deliver the impression of a scientist gone astray, ruthless and blinded by his ambition.

It is Boyd Holbrook (Milk, A Walk Among the Tombstones, Jane Got a Gun) who gets some second looks, with his blend of traditional handsomeness and professional malevolence. Stephen Merchant (British; radio and stand-up comedy) steals at least two scenes. Dafne Keen (debut) picks up some twenty. The Spanish barrage she is made to vocalise after being presumed a mute for half the film is a case of the writer-director getting too cute, though it helps that she speaks Spanish. Nevertheless, I’ll dafnetely be keen on seeing more of her.

Will he bounce back? He begins a broken man, turns hero for the last quarter of the film and is dead by the end. In fact, both Logan and his clone are dead. Sheer double whammy that. (Spoiler? But everybody knows that Logan is to die in this enterprise). Don’t you dare write him off yet. He is more than capable of clawing his way in again, once more, to the cries of “once more”, bringing more gore to the fore. Respect for the human anatomy is an antonym for Logan. Incidentally, what is the anatomy of mutants called? Mutatomy?

Rating: *** ½ (Guilty of guilty pleasure)

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RH3OxVFvTeg

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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of FilmFestivals.com and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.


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